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Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

typing-clipart-typing-on-computerI’m humbled and thrilled to receive my first 5 star review for The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story.

When a reader takes the time to write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or their blog, they are not only reaching out to other readers, they are reaching out to the author. After countless hours, months, years, the writer sits on the edge of his/her seat, waiting to see if anyone out there actually enjoys the story, as they’ve told it. We are anxious mother hens, hovering over our chick, pushing it forward, clucking away, and full of nervous excitement.

Reviews also affect the discoverability of a writer’s work on on-line venues, and in bricks-and-mortar stores. Just like word-of-mouth, it helps spread the word about a new release, or a book that’s been around a while. Places like Amazon use something called algorithms to help place the book in line with others of it’s kind, and rise it in the ranks of scores of other books. The more reviews a book gets, the higher up the line it rises, thereby making it easier for potential readers to discover. No one seems to know exactly how these algorithms work, but it is vital to the success of a book, and of course, to the writer and publisher.

When considering a new book, I know I check the reviews first, just like I do when considering whether or not to book a hotel. It isn’t that I rely on that information only when buying a book, but when I see a pattern (positive or negative), it sways my decision-making. I combine that information with my opinion of the cover art and back cover blurb, and if I like what I see, I’ll lay my money down.

Reviews may also help bookstores decide which books they give valuable shelf space to. Their business is to sell books, so it makes sense that a bookstore is going to want to place books that are more likely to sell.

Finally, (honest) reviews help the writer determine whether or not they’ve hit their mark with the story. It gives us much needed feedback, and feeds the fires of inspiration to keep us moving ahead with the next book, and the next, and the next.

shout-outBut how do you write a review? Honestly, it’s easy. Once you’ve finished reading a book, go to Amazon and set up your (free) account (most countries have their own Amazon sites). Next, search for the title or author, and click on that book. This brings you to the book’s sales page. Just below the author’s name you’ll see a series of five stars. Beside that you’ll see a line that states how many reviews that particular book has. Click on that, and it’ll bring you to a new page that gives all the reviews that book has received to date. Beside the star review, you’ll see an area that says “Write a customer review”. Click on that and follow the prompts. If you’ve read a book on a Kindle or via Kindle app, at the end of the book you’ll be taken to a “review” page, so this is where you can easily leave a review. Amazon, and other e-venues, is trying to make this really easy for readers, because they know how valuable your feedback is.

As for the portion where you can leave a comment, it can be as long or as brief as you like. Read through a few others on that book or any others to get an idea. It doesn’t have to be brilliant. It doesn’t have to be perfectly worded. It just has to be honest. Typically, it’s helpful to explain what you liked (or didn’t like) about the book. In some cases you can give a brief synopsis (no spoilers though, please), or not, and a recommendation, such as “I’d highly recommend this book to other lovers of _____.”

Once you’ve submitted your review, Amazon will notify you that it has been accepted, and what’s really cool, is that if your review proves helpful to another reader, you’ll receive an email notification to tell you.

On behalf of all writers out there, and for me, thank you for your incredible support. It means more to us than you know!

Finally, do you read reviews before purchasing? If so, tell us why. If not, share your reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hear ye! Hear ye!

Hear ye! Hear ye!

That is the question, especially if you are a reader and are looking to provide valuable feedback, support, or to help the author raise awareness of their work. If you are a writer, you already know how important reviews are to you and your work. If you aren’t sure, read on.

 

Before I became a writer I had no idea that reviews were so important to a writer. I mean really, I just read a book, and if I liked it I told my family and friends. I didn’t contact the writer and tell them I’d enjoyed their book, and I certainly didn’t even think about going onto Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo to post a review. I’d never heard of Goodreads, Smashwords, or the scores of other reader/writer websites that have sprung up on the net. Why would I? I was blissfully ignorant in the ways of the publishing and writing world.

 

All that changed when I decided to pen my own novel. Suddenly I wanted and needed to learn all I could about this new venture. I never considered it a hobby. I always knew that one day I’d write, and that when I did, I’d give it my all. That’s when I started reading about the importance of reviews. Of course I’d read the reviews posted about top selling writers and their newest work, and sometimes I’d even read those reviews so beautifully and glowingly featured in the book’s first pages or back cover, but I figured the only ones that counted were the ones from the New York Times Best Seller List, or other highly acclaimed and sought after literary professionals and authors. I was no professional reviewer or famous author, so why would what I had to say matter to anyone?

 

The more I read, the more I began to understand, and appreciate, just how much my own little words of support and feedback really could impact a book and it’s potential sales. I realized that the writers really did value reader’s reviews, perhaps more than those oft quoted literary luminaries. I was a real person, who hadn’t been paid anything to purchase the book, read it, and comment on whether I liked or didn’t like it. It doesn’t get more real or grass roots than that, and that’s pretty cool, I think.

 

That’s not to say the other, paid for reviews, such as Kirkus Reviews, don’t matter. They do, and they hold a lot of sway within the industry. But so do ordinary reader’s reviews and comments. As a writer, I can’t tell you how excited I am when someone reads my book, then takes the time to let me know what they thought of it. Of course I love the five star reviews, who doesn’t, but even the ones that come in with three and four stars have value and merit. Those reviews point to potential areas where I may want to tighten things up or give consideration to. All feedback is valuable; you just have to decide what to do with it.

 

Reviews are especially helpful for other readers though. Personally, I always check out the reviews of a new book or author, to get a good overall feel for the story and writer. That doesn’t mean I go by reviews only though. It’s just another way for me to ascertain whether or not I think a book is of interest to me and worth my hard-earned money. In that vein, reviews are extremely valuable to writers and other readers. Honest, carefully written reviews are worth their weight in gold when it comes to selling books, whether ebooks or print. That’s why virtually every online book retailer clearly provides readers with the means and access to provide an honest review of books they’ve read. Some, like Amazon, even go so far as to email their customers a few weeks after purchase to ask how they liked the book and provide a direct link to write a short review.

 

In talking to family, friends, and book signing attendees about reviews, many express the fear that they don’t know how to write a review. They think there must be some grand, magical, or special literary talent you have to have to do so. I remind them that all other readers and writers want is an honest opinion of their reading experience with the book. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. It can be as short as, “I really liked it”. Ideally though, a book review should address three things: whether you liked the book, or didn’t, what you liked/didn’t like, and why. An example of this might be, “I really enjoyed this book because it made me laugh and think about subjects I hadn’t considered before,” or “I didn’t enjoy this book because the characters didn’t seem very realistic, so I couldn’t connect with them.”. Reviews are subjective, meaning each person is going to either like or not like it based on their own internal set of criteria, and that’s perfectly fine. When a book starts gathering more reviews and ratings, patterns begin to emerge, so that potential new readers can see what the “general consensus” is about the book. 

Book ratingThen there’s the rating. Rating is a system whereby there are five “stars”, and each star has a rate. On Amazon, one star is for “I hate it”, two stars for “I don’t like it”, three stars for “It’s okay”, four stars for “I like it”, and five stars for “I love it”. This break down will translate very closely to other sites rating systems, so don’t worry about having to learn a bunch of new systems. To be fair to other readers and the author, if you are going to take the time to rate a book, please also write a short review in the “Share your opinion” section. Without the comment, no one will understand why you gave it the rating you did. This can even be done anonymously, if you’d rather not have anyone know who you are. A few of my readers have done this, and I respect their privacy, while appreciating their time and feedback.

 

Getting lost in the stack

Getting lost in the stack

The final reason reviews are so important is because it affects how easily a book is found among literally thousands of other books in the same genre. You can’t imagine how frustrating it is to have written a book that people are responding well to, but because it doesn’t have enough reviews and/or rankings, it’s virtually impossible to find by potential new readers who might enjoy it and are just doing a generic search. Without those important reviews and rankings, your book falls to the bottom of the list and at the end of countless pages of other books.

 

So, as you can see, reviews (and rankings) are extremely important. Not just to writers, but to other readers as well. Once I started providing brief reviews of books I was reading, I found it not only easy, but enjoyable as well. It was my small way of thanking the writer for penning a good book and entertaining me, or teaching me something I didn’t know before. Other than the five minutes it takes me to write a quick, thoughtful review, it doesn’t cost me a thing, but I know it’s value.

 

What are you reading right now? Have you ever written a review, and if so, what did you take away from the experience. If not, what’s stopping you.

 

Your comments and feedback are important, so please also feel free to comment below.

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Beware of False Claims

Beware of False Claims

Caveat Emptor”; it means “buyer beware”. Scams and rip-offs are nothing new, and writers are not exempt from being targeted, especially eager new writers. I recently read an article on Forbes by Suw Charman-Anderson about this very subject, and I couldn’t help but think of all the ways that people can be taken advantage of in this industry.

We’ve all heard about the evils of vanity publishing, which is not to be confused with self-publishing. To my understanding, vanity publishing is where a writer hires a company, for a fee, to publish their work. There is little or no support on behalf of the so-called publisher, no editing, no cover art support, no marketing and promotion. If the writer would like these services, they agree to pay the publisher additional funds for them.

On the other hand, self-publishing has gained huge recognition in the publishing industry at large, and has grown exponentially around the globe. In this instance, writers are taking the bull by the horns and, rather than rely on agents and/or publishers to get their work into the hands of the reading public, they are doing so themselves. They are working directly with companies like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, etc., to upload their original works into ebook formats, and contracting the direct services of legitimate printers, editors, cover artists, etc., to produce quality books that rival that of the big six publishers ( Critical Pages).

Racing Ahead

Racing Ahead

But here’s the catch, in the eagerness to self-publish, some writers are being pulled in by scams that claim to assist them in getting their work out there to the masses, for a sometimes very substantial fee. According to Charman-Anderson’s article, and others that are emerging, some of these seemingly legitimate sources are proving to be anything but helpful. In fact, claims are starting to emerge about companies, such as Author Solutions (AS), that are apparently backed by Penguin, one of the world’s leading publishers. Who can fault the writer for believing they are safe with a company backed by this big hitter? Not me. With so much falling to the writer in terms of marketing and promotion, design, formatting, reaching audiences and growing a solid author’s platform, I completely understand how some writers are lured in by the prospect of obtaining some “professional” help in these areas. We are overwhelmed and underfunded, but also eager and determined to “make it” in this cut-throat business of book publishing. The writing part is nothing compared to these stresses.

But wait, what can writers do to help ensure this doesn’t happen to them? Well, I’d suggest reading as much as possible about industry related news, to learn who is doing what. The amount of information available on the net is massive, so start small and just begin by typing in words like “publishing”, or “publishing news”, etc. Look around, become familiar with sites you really like, bookmark them, and frequent them often. Next, I’d suggest researching online about possible bad reviews of publishers, editors, and agents. Yes, these reviews exist. Websites like Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write Water Cooler, etc., give reviews and comments on companies who have run afoul of other writers. Also, by Googling the name of a company you are considering, you can learn a great deal about the dealings of a potential company claiming to help authors self-publish. If there are bad reviews out there, best to discover it before signing on the dotted line and paying out hard-earned money.

Another way to be prudent of course, is to have a lawyer examine any and all contracts before signing them. If there are any hidden fees, or obscure wording that doesn’t completely spell out what the company will and won’t do, a lawyer experienced in reading such contracts will ferret it out and advise you. This will cost you money for the lawyer, but perhaps better that than discovering, well into the process, that you are caught in a trap that you’ve paid for.

If it walks like a duck...

If it walks like a duck…

In the end, it really is up to each individual writer to treat their work as a business and ensure, to the best of their ability, that they have checked out any potential company they are considering working with. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This means there is even more reason to check everything out thoroughly, before committing to anything.

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Yo ho!

Yo ho!

I recently read an article by Suw Charman-Anderson, Forbes Magazine, whereby she talks about the issues of ebook pirating. As Charman-Anderson states, ‘Piracy’s here. It’s staying. We can’t stop it. So we need to find inventive and attractive ways to work around it.’. I have to say, I couldn’t agree more.

Theft and/or piracy have been around for a long, long time. Since time immemorial, people have had to come up with ways of engaging the legitimate buyer and enticing them to purchase their product or service at market value, rather than through theft. Yes, there have always been those who have sought ways to steal rather than purchase, but I believe most people would rather be honest and do the right thing.

She also mentions that authors themselves have a vested interest in connecting with readers and thereby thwarting the pirates. Lovely as the vision is of sitting in my little corner and writing all day long, or at least as long as I want to, I know I need to step outside myself and connect with others if I want to sell any copies of my book. If I want to let others know of its existence, of its virtues and value, then I have to beat the drum myself. I’d love to have an agent or publicist who would take on some of that burden, but in today’s technological world, even the most famous authors are having to put a face and voice behind the books they write.

When we encourage connection with others, they in turn are less likely to want to steal our work. They are hopefully encouraged to share the word and help out by telling others to purchase our books, read our blogs, or watch our media spots. I mean, have you seen James Patterson touting his latest book on television lately. Yep, I have. Good for him. Now when I see his face, like in a cameo on the hit tv series Castle, I recognize him. I’m intrigued and am sent to my ereader, library, or bookstore to look up his titles and read them. He has personalized his writing for me.

Second hand books

Second hand books

Then came the word about Amazon’s second hand ebook market. According to Publisher’s Weekly, and a host of other sources, it seems they’ve been granted a patent that will allow them the resale of digital material, like books and music. Yikes! What does that mean for me as an author? What does it mean for publishers? Plenty, since it means we all have to again rethink what it means to sell a book on any one venue. Personally, I’d like to have my work out there on as many viable venues as possible, rather than keeping my eggs all in one basket. Maybe that’s one way around this thing, but if Amazon is successful in the second hand ebook market, others will jump on the band wagon. So, again, it’s up to authors and publishers to give readers a reason to buy new and possibly direct. We need to be as flexible as a hose if we’re going to stay in the game, and we need to let our readers know that we’re here for them, that we’re real live human beings with lives and families and financial issues, just like them. If we can do that, maybe it won’t matter what this crazy publishing business does.

There have always been pirates and knock-offs, and those who will try to undersell you, but if you stay true to your center mark and offer the best of yourself possible, growing and learning as you go, you just might weather the storms ahead. Keep your umbrellas and rubber boots handy though – it’s gonna get wet!  umbrella in rain

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Jumping for joyA really cool thing is starting to happen since the release of In The Spirit Of Love. People are starting to notice! They’ve purchased a copy of my book, either in downloaded ebook format or in POD print, and they’re letting me know what they think. Very cool, since the highest honor I can conceive of as an author is to have people part with their hard-earned dollars and buy and like my book.

When an author sits and writes a story, they really have no idea how it will be perceived by the outside world. I know I didn’t. I hoped that others would enjoy the story, and when my publisher, Karen Syed of Echelon Press said she really enjoyed it or she wouldn’t have signed me, it gave me a boost of confidence. But what about the rest of the world? What about my family and friends (some would be my toughest critics)?

Then I had my first newspaper interview, and it was a great success. I’ve now had a few, and each one builds my confidence, but also my experience in interview formats and questions. I’m still a new babe on this one, but I learned that each interviewer comes with his/her own agenda and lists of questions. Whether they email me the questions, or we do a personal interview, I’m really pleased with the in-depth, and sometime quirky, questions I’m asked. There are the usual ones, such as ‘where do I get my ideas’, and ‘how did I get started’, etc., but then there are those that really make me think and go ‘huh’?

Gotta love camping

Gotta love camping

An example of the latter type of interview question came from Kat of The Book Tart. Kat asked me a question I doubt anyone else ever will. She asked me to liken writing to camping. I really had to sit back and think about that one. My first thought was, ‘how is that relevant’? Then I really started thinking about it and, because we happen to do a lot of camping (my kind of camping anyway) at our mobile home trailer with our children and grandchildren, I had something to relate to.

It occurred to me that camping is fun, messy, and spontaneous. As I said in the interview, you can’t worry about whether the kids are going to get dirty, or what you’re going to do for meals. You just kind of go with the flow and ad-lib throughout the day(s). I think it’s why we love BBQs so much. I can always throw on a few more burgers or hot dogs, run up to the store for extras if needed, toss together a little more salad, or whatever the general concensus is. No muss, no fuss, and no fancy dinnerware. Condiments are placed on the table in their containers and it’s paper plates all the way. She also asked about s’mores. Well we love s’mores – who doesn’t, and again, they’re messy, gooey and you just can’t worry about it.

So what does that have to do with writing? Well, for me anyway, when I sit down to write, I don’t do a whole lot of planning with storyboards or plot lines. I just plant butt in chair and write. I start with a germ of an idea and let the story unfold as it may. In the first draft, I don’t worry about how clean and tidy it is, although I’ll admit I can’t handle spelling and punctuation errors, so might clean those up as I go when I find them. I really try to just relax and enjoy the journey the story takes me on, and if I come to a point where I’m stumped and don’t know what to write, I stop. Sometimes I’ll even stop for a few days and mull it over in my head until I’m ready to begin again. When I think the story has gone as far as I can take it (even when I plan to follow with a sequel), I stop.

It’s in the editing and re-writes that I get serious about clean up. Kind of like the camping analogy. I worry about full clean up after the day is over and/or everyone has gone home. You see, I don’t want to miss any of the fun by being anal about making it all perfect. As I said, that comes at the editing and re-writing stage. Of course once I’m in that mode, then it’s serious business and I’m as vigilant as the next writer. We have to be. We want to be.

So now my work is out there. People are buying it and reading it, and they have opinions. When they reach back and share those opinions, it really matters, because that’s what tells an author if he/she is on the right path with the story or with our writing. Even negative comments provide invaluable feedback. If a reader says she didn’t connect with the heroine as much as she’d like, I have to take it on the chin and ask myself why. Am I missing something, or is it just a matter of personal opinion? I can’t just fluff it off and pretend I didn’t hear it. I need to take heed and pay attention, not just to that review, but others as well. Is that opinion shared by other readers? If so, I’d better do something to ensure my characters are relatable and believable.

The positive, five star reviews are great though, especially in the beginning, since it’s our only validation. It lets the author know their work is hitting the mark, and it lets other readers know whether or not this is the kind of book they might enjoy. I love it when people put their name to a really great review, but I understand when they don’t. Some people just arent’ comfortable having their name out there for all to see, even when they’re giving positive feedback. I get that. I’ve even done it myself (long before I became an author myself). I figured the feedback was enough, and didn’t need to add my name. It is, and I thank anyone who has penned an anonymous review. It is deeply appreciated.

Messy HandsIt occurs to me that, not only is camping messy, and sometimes the writing process, but so is life. It’s rarely all tied up in neat little bows or packaged with pretty paper. It’s hard work, it’s spontaneous, it’s lol crazy, it’s heart-rending, it’s everything and more. When I realized that, it was one of my aha moments. I love it when things come together easily and effortlessly, and yep, I love getting pretty presents, but when I’ve gotta get my hands dirty and just do what needs to be done, then I can do that too. You see, writing isn’t just a dream, or a passion. It’s sometimes just something ya gotta do. You can’t imagine not writing. Still, you have to have the confidence in yourself that what you are putting out there is worth other people’s time and money. You have to believe that it’s what you were put on this earth to do. But most of all, you have to be able to have fun with it. Worry about the hows, the whys, the what-ifs later. Be messy and just write.

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Cheers!

Cheers!

So, now that I’ve written and had my first book published, drank the congratulatory champagne and danced the victory dance, I’m left to wonder, now what?

Of course I have the WIP to continue, which is work enough, but what about getting the word out there about my book. I mean, much as I’m thrilled with the response from family and friends (and I definitely am), there’s the whole wide world I need to reach out to now. Separate and apart from the writing is the marketing and promotion, a beast unto itself.

Before the release of my book, I did invest quite a bit of time investigating websites, becoming proactive in social networking via FaceBook, but what about Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest? What about requesting honest reviews of readers and asking them to post them on sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and so on? What about face-to-face appearances, readings and book signings?

Whoa, this is starting to look like a TON of work, and it is. I read a while back that book marketing and promotion can take up considerable time for an author, because he/she needs to reach out to readers to let them know their book is available for sale. Not only that, but as an author, you want the feedback. ‘Am I on the right track?’ ‘Do people like and respond to my story and characters?’ ‘Do they like me?’

And so it goes. As I mentioned before, writing is a lot like life, and the similarities continue to intrigue me. In order to do well in this world, we need to be willing to risk something of ourselves. We need to be willing to invest in ourselves and trust that at least some others will respond positively to our efforts. Otherwise, why bother? Why put ourselves through the pain and anguish of exposing our deepest hopes and dreams?

storytellingIt’s because we believe we have some talent for storytelling. We believe we have something of value for others to relate to, even if only for entertainment sake. We strike out on this lonely path, and along the way, if we’re lucky, we meet others whose paths merge or intersect with ours. We realize we are not alone, and that they too share the dream. Authors come together, sometimes loosely, and sometimes very tightly knit, to support and encourage.

Ah, but when the reader reaches back and gives praise or useful comment, the writer is blessed. They are validated. They have been heard. The fact that another person has invested his/her time and hard-earned money to purchase your book resonates in a special place within the writer’s heart. It is a warm, sunny space.

 But how to reach the reader, and how to connect with other writers? In my opinion, one step at a time. I recommend researching the options and trying the ones that seem to connect with you. On-line networking has become globally massive, with the potential to connect with more people than ever before, but you have to be willing to participate, and participate with care and professionalism. Still, what works well for one writer may not suit the personality of another, but make no mistake, EVERY writer must put themselves out there and connect on some level.  Even the long-held masters of the craft can’t expect to sit in their writing caves and ignore the outside world for long. Yes, the Work In Progress (WIP) is of paramount importance, but so too is connecting with your audience. Agents and publicity people notwithstanding, readers love to hear from the author directly. They love to ask those burning questions and know that the writer is human.

Now I’m such a newbie, I had no idea how to go about things like press releases and book tours, but I did compose a press release and sent it out to many of the local newspapers. A week ago I was contacted by one of the larger ones and asked if I’d be interested in an interview. Are you kidding me? I was ecstatic! One week to the date of the interview, I purchased several copies of that newspaper and there it was – the cover art of my book, my photo, and the article. A half-page of information about me and my work shone back at me. I learned something from that exercise; ask and ye shall receive. Keep quiet, and no one knows you have something to share.

Another example of something that always works well is word of mouth. When my daughter talked to her local librarian last week, she mentioned my book. The librarian was quite interested in learning of this new (local) author and asked my daughter to have me stop in at the branch and bring along a copy of my book. I was thrilled at the opportunity. It’s no surprise that librarians love and support books, so this was an ideal fit. I had ordered fifty-five copies of my book to sell to family and friends who had asked for a signed copy. Now this librarian said she’d like to purchase and read it. It doesn’t get better than that. A complete stranger wants to read your book and possibly recommend it to others who trust her judgement.

Librarians Rock!

Librarians Rock!

After meeting that first librarian, I then gathered up the courage to contact another librarian at a separate branch and ask if she’d be interested as well. Well lo and behold, that gracious lady immediately jumped on board, asking me to bring her five copies of my book to distribute to other county branches in her area! We chatted when I brought in my books and she asked if I would consider doing a chapter reading, Q & A, and book signing in the Spring. You bet I would!

And so it begins. I’ve now begun contacting the local libraries (we have a lot of them), and have been thrilled with the response. In two days I pre-booked two book readings and sold eight books to libraries. Even though my books are primarily available on e-readers and e-devices, I was pleased to learn that libraries not only promote this venue, but assist patrons with selecting and downloading books they’re interested in. One of our small libraries actually has three e-readers available for loan, to be signed out on a two week basis and returned, exactly like a book! Now that’s being proactive.

As I continue working and networking, I find I’m meeting some amazing people, and I’m learning new things every day. The first draft WIP is almost complete, as I now have people continually asking when the sequel going to be ready. Kind of lights a fire under the butt when you have people clamouring for your next work.

For now I’ll keep working and learning as I go, growing my base and putting down roots. What I know for sure is that this writing gig is what I was meant to do. At long last, after a lifetime of trials and errors, of mountains and valleys, I’ve found something that fills a part of my soul I hadn’t even realized was there. What more could I ask?

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Jumping for joyWow, this past week has been exciting. After some three years (give or take) of writing, I can now say I’m a bona fide published author.  Woohoo! The moment I downloaded a copy of my book onto my Kindle and my mother downloaded hers onto her Nook, I started to shake. Then I cried like a baby on my husband’s shoulder, while my dad looked on in bemused wonder.

I was unprepared for the emotions I’d experience at the live “birth” of this baby. I’d always wondered why authors likened a book to a baby, but having just gone through the experience, I now completely understand.  Having toiled away in relative quiet; writing, reading, editing, re-writing, submissions, rejections, more editing, more reading, and about three more rounds of editing, I’ve come to realize just what kind of dedication it takes to becoming a published writer. It’s no easy task, and not for the faint of heart.

Kind of like with pregnancy, you grow the “book baby” within you, close to your heart. No one can see or hear it yet, but you know it’s there. Then you announce to the world you are writing a book, and the responses run the gammit from “Wow, that’s incredible!”, to “Oh really…”. Like a pregnant mom, you protectively cross your arms over your growing child and tell yourself  it doesn’t matter if your book is a huge commercial success, is beautiful, well-received, or brilliant. It doesn’t matter. It’s yours – all yours.

As release day looms, you begin to anticipate all kinds of terrible things, like; it’s a terrible story, it’s not well-written, people will hate it, it’ll be full of all kinds of flaws that everyone will see. But you love your child, so you do everything you can to prepare for the birth – the release date. You cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, hoping to get it as perfect as you can, while still agonizing about how it will be received by the public at large.

As you go through all of these stages, you are terrified you’ve missed something. In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect book. Almost every book written has some flaws, a missed punctuation here, an oddly placed word there, some bit of awkward phrasing you didn’t catch during the gazillion times it’s been edited by you, your editor and whoever else you’ve had aid you. Just before the release, you realize you’ve done everything you possibly can, and you know your child will not be perfect. As in people, it simply can’t be. You breathe and you try to accept that this “baby” will be whatever it is meant to be.

Oh, but then there is the birth – the date of public release. Suddenly after all the stress, strain and pain, it is out in the world for all to see. Every thought you’ve put down on paper is there. Good, bad or indifferent, anyone who picks it up and reads it now knows whether it’s a good story, a mediocre story, or a bad one. All the flaws are revealed. But as you gaze upon the written words on a mechanical device or paper bundle for the first time, your heart melts. It is done. It is beautiful. So you cry, you shake with emotion, and you let those who’ve stood by your side wrap you in their arms of love and share in the excitement.

cartoon BabyThe first day or two are euphoric. You are thrilled, proud and want to show it to everyone. You want to give it the best life you possibly can. So what do you, the author/parent do? You begin promoting the hell out of it. You tell perfect strangers, family, friends, anyone, that your baby deserves a fighting chance. You start pouring over the book’s ranking on the on-line sales sites, unsure of what they mean. Your family and friends start asking things like, “so how’s it going?” or, “how are sales today?”

You become somewhat defensive. Sales? Who cares about sales? Who cares if it currently ranks in the hundreds of thousands on Amazon because few people still know about it. Oh, you care. You care because you want your baby to succeed. You care because your “baby” is a reflection of you. You created it, so it is intrinsically a part of you. It is only day four of it’s life, yet you want it to be a star among stars, shining brighter than all the other millions of stars out there.

Then, if you are reasonable, you begin to breathe again and realize that you can only do the very best you can.  As Richard Mabry states in his guest blog on Rachelle Gardner’s blog site, “should you open the champagne when the number is small and look for the bottle of antidepressants when the number rises? Nope. Just keep writing.”.  You want to give your new “baby” the best possible start in life you are able to provide it, and you will continue to do so, but you must also resume other aspects of your life. Your spouse, family and friends are standing by patiently (or not) waiting for you to rejoin the rest of society. You start to loosen the iron grip you had on statistics, rankings and reviews, and begin to focus on simply raising your “child” and enjoying the journey.

Then, you get another book idea-and start the whole cycle over again. So now I understand. Writing a book and getting it published is about more than just putting words to the proverbial page. It is about faith, love, perseverance, and the need to tell the stories that inhabit your mind. It is very much like parenting and life. In fact, it brings to mind the Serenity poem, which reads, “God, grant me the serenity to change the things I can, to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference”. 

Serenity Prayer

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