This week’s guest poster is the lovely J M Woodall, author of Like A Fox on the Run. He discusses his experience during the first year of being a writer. Enjoy!
My First Year as A Writer
by J M Woodall
No one ever wakes up one morning and just decides, “Hey! I think I’ll become an author today!” Right?
Well, as much as it seemed that’s what I did, I promise you, that’s not how it went down. As I approach my first year as a published author, I take a slight pause to reflect on just what a wild and crazy ride it’s been in just a few, short months.
A lot of times in these moments of pondering, you run across a number of things that, if given the chance, you’d do a whole lot differently. But I can honestly say, there’s not too much I would change. Were mistakes made? Sure! Did I learn things the hard way? Seems like that’s the only way for me to learn. But at the same time, I have met many good people, made a lot of great friends, and have grown as a writer, and more importantly, as a person because of the journey. And while there may have been frustrations, frowns and frets along the way, the smiles and laughter have far exceeded those.
Maybe somewhere out there, there’s a “Becoming an Author for Dummies.” If there is, it sure would have been nice to have had the link to it on Kindle around this time last year. For it was around this time, as the leaves were changing, that I began to seriously contemplate taking the plunge and wading into the wonderful world of indie publishing. I was in the midst of writing my first, full-length novel, an odd, little sci-fi fantasy about anthropomorphic fox girls, worn-out old space pilots and badass mercenaries. Other than writing a manuscript, I had literally no idea what to do. None whatsoever. At this point, I didn’t even have a Facebook profile, no Twitter account and forget about Instagram or e-mail. But, then again, how hard could it be? After all, it was self-publishing. Everyone was doing it. I was almost certain I could.
I did know one thing for certain. If my first book was a flop, I sure didn’t want it to be the one I was writing. I wasn’t even sure at the time I even could write! What if I was just fooling myself? What if I wasn’t worth a damn? What if I just plain sucked?
I determined right then and there I definitely wasn’t going to roll the dice with what I considered my magnum opus. I couldn’t bear the thought of it. If I was going to fail right out of the gate, I wasn’t going to do it with what, at the time, I considered my greatest work. Of course, it was my only work, but I was proud of it and I thought it did have potential. I wasn’t ready to sacrifice it to the gods of obscurity and indifference.
I decided to cautiously dip my toe into the water. I wouldn’t go charging out into the publishing world like the Light Brigade to get mercilessly mowed down by critics and readers alike. I would ease into things quietly and not risk humiliation and instant rejection. Of course, I also wouldn’t have the problem of being overwhelmed by massive profits either.
Still, naïve and totally unprepared for what lie ahead, I implemented my master plan to take the self-publishing industry by storm. First, I needed something to publish. That was easy enough. In December, I banged out a short little ditty that fell in the paranormal romance/ erotica category I wittily titled, “The Devil In the Detail.” Actually, for a quickie, I didn’t think it too bad and I was rather proud of it. I thought it would do rather nicely as my initial foray into this new world. I had already been dealing with a wonderful lady, the lovely and talented Vanesa Garkova of Book Cover Art, on doing a book cover for my original book, so I had her whip me up a hot cover for this one as well, and I was on my way.
Now, it was time to take the plunge. It’s one thing to write books that your family and friends read and say, “Oh that’s awesome! You really are a great writer!” It’s a whole other thing to put yourself out there for the whole world to see. Was I ready? Would I be a flop? Did I have what it took? I had no idea. There was only one way to find out. I had to put myself out there, take my lumps and sink or swim.
So, in January, I opened a Facebook profile and put Author in front of my name, not because I thought I was one, but because someone told me it would help in Google searches to have your name start with an “A”. I really don’t know if that matters or not, but at the time it sounded like great advice and I sure didn’t claim to be an expert. I started making friends with anyone that would add me and I found very quickly, that there was no shortage of people who love to add you as a “friend.” I didn’t know most of them from Adam’s housecat. And regardless of whether they give you the time of day, whether they have anything in common with you, or whether you ever interact with them again once you add them as a “friend,” it doesn’t matter. People on Facebook want to be your “friend.” And I needed friends.
For a month, I not only worked Facebook, but Goodreads and Twitter, letting all my newfound “friends” know I had a book coming out. I had set the release date for mid-February, right around Valentines. What a stroke of genius that was. What better time to release a new romantic offering? This was really working out to my advantage. After all, a month was plenty of time to let everyone know I was now on the scene and was releasing my first book, wasn’t it? I was getting all these big thumbs up every time I sent an invite to like the new book page I’d created. But, just to be sure, I even paid Face book to boost my book to thousands of Facebook users worldwide. I was sure to get some business from that! It was a can’t miss deal. All I had to do was sit back and watch my book sell itself. It would just ignite and spread like wildfire.
When the release date hit, that’s exactly what I did. I sat back and watched and waited. And waited … and waited. And I slowly began to realize a few things … because even I might talk slow, that don’t mean I’m stupid. In fact, I began to realize a lot of things over the next few weeks. And very few were positive. And unfortunately, chief among them all, was the fact that I didn’t have a clue when it came to marketing my book. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t know who to ask for help. As far as guidance and advice, I was totally alone.
People can say what they want to, but if nobody’s reading your book, it’s really nothing more than vanity publishing. And when you’re a self-published author, you’re not only the author, but you’re also the head of the market, sales and distribution departments as well. Whether you like it or not, the job’s not done when you type “The End.” Actually, it’s only just getting started. And like most of my life lessons, I was to find that out the hard way.
Luckily, that wasn’t the end of my story. Luckily, my book sold slowly, but it sold. But even more fortunate, I began to make friends. Not just Facebook “friends,” but friends who didn’t mind helping me, who didn’t mind sharing a word or two of helpful advice. I can’t say at any time someone told me some monumental or earth-shattering secret. It was never like that. It was more a suggestion here, a tip there … One thing I’ve learned in life is never be too proud or arrogant to ignore advice from people who have already traveled the road you’re trying to traverse. Only a fool does this.
In the spring of this year, things began to fall into place, A.L. Long, a wonderful author and lady asked me if I would like to fill in for someone who had to cancel their takeover at one of her release parties. I had no idea what I was doing, but of course, I jumped at the chance. Somehow, I bluffed my way through it and soon started doing other takeovers. I found that it was a great way to not only get my name out there, but to get people to read my books. I had really nothing else to give away but my book, so I gave them away. At this point, it was more important for people to read my work than it was for them to buy it. It was one of the first great lessons I learned. Get your work out to the public however you can. Don’t be too proud or stingy to give it away. As I said before, if no one’s reading your book, you might as well go back to your day job.
I also learned that the most important person in an author’s like is the reader, the fan, the person who buys the book and reads it. Why? Because they don’t have to do anything. They don’t have to but your book, they don’t have to read it, they don’t have to tell others about it. When I do takeover, the people I interact with are important to me, whether I’ve known them for years or it’s a total stranger. I try to interact with each and every one. Why? Because I want them to feel like I’m there for them. Just them. Because I am. I believe you build a fanbase one reader at a time and you never pass up a chance to make one.
The next great thing that happened was meeting my editor, Kaye Blanchard. I was looking for an editor to go over my next book, my pride and joy, “Like A Fox on The Run.” I wanted it professionally edited, so it would be the best book possible. I can honestly say I got my money’s worth from Kaye. She took a manuscript and made it into a book. I didn’t always like what she wanted to do and there were nights I gritted my teeth and bit my tongue at some of her remarks, but in the end, it was well worth it. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I learned to trust other’s opinions. Your book is your baby. You’re always going to be biased toward it. But there has to come a time when you have to let it go and let someone else put it to the test. Don’t be afraid to take criticism or do make changes. I remember being distraught when she suggested I rewrite the entire first three chapters and add a prologue. But, in the end, she was right. It made it a better book.
The last and certainly the most important thing to happen to me in my first year as an author was a chance meeting with a PA, who, at the time, was working for another author. Ms. Tania Fitzgerald has been a godsend. She started out simply by helping me in her spare time as a beta reader or doing whatever she could do. But eventually, as my second book grew closer and closer to release, she began to become an integral part of that endeavor. She helped with teasers, the trailer, the book page and takeovers and anything else I needed. Finally, we made it official and she became my PA. I can’t say enough about the job she has done helping me get LAFOTR released and marketed. I am truly blessed to have her in my corner.
As I prepare to start my second year as an author, with another book in the works and the future all bright and sparkly, it’s fun to look back and see just how naïve I was just a few short months back. Thankfully, I ran across great people who helped show me the way and I know I have many miles to go. I’m still learning but there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of you out there may become world-famous authors one day. Maybe something from my journey help you achieve that. Me, I never plan on getting rich or famous, I just enjoy writing and telling my stories. It’s reward enough for me. But whatever your destiny, just remember this … Life’s a process, there’s always going to be challenges, always going to be setbacks. There’s also going to be rewards and blessings. Always keep an open mind and never be too proud to take good advice. The day you think you know it all, is the day you’re in big trouble!
Just have fun and enjoy the ride while you can! It doesn’t last forever.
Like A Fox On The Run by J M Woodall
Buck Rogers meets the Dukes of Hazzard” in this Southern-fried sci-fi fantasy.
Tiger Thomas was a rocket pilot during the Great Space Rush. Now, all that’s winding down, and so has the demand for old Spacers. He makes a living now doing whatever jobs he can, legal and not-so-legal.
Back Earthside for a weekend, Tiger hopes to relax, eat some decent food, maybe see his old flame, Lulah. But when he rescues a genetically engineered, anthropomorphic fox girl from rapacious rednecks, his homecoming turns sour.
Somebody wants this sexy, furry fluff back. And they’ll do whatever it takes, including killing anyone who stands in their way. Tiger and his newfound companion soon finds themselves on the run from a relentless hi-tech bounty hunter. And if that ain’t bad enough, revelations about this beautiful vixen starts to disturb him. Is she really a victim? Is there more to her than what just pleases the eye? A part hidden and dangerous, waiting for just the right time to manifest itself.
Then, there’s Lulah. As if that relationship wasn’t complicated enough.
So much for a relaxing weekend.
Connect with J M Woodall
DO YOU WANT TO BE A GUEST POSTER ON THE ETERNAL SCRIBBLER? – If so please check out this post first which goes through details of what is needed. Then just leave a comment a) letting me know you have read the post and are interested, b) confirm the topic of your article (or if you want an interview) and c) which deadline date you want.
Thanks to J M Woodall who shared his experience of being a writer with us. If you have any questions or queries for J M Woodall, please leave a comment here. Make sure to check out his links and pages.
I’ll be back on Friday with a new post.
About Ari Meghlen
I’ve been a writer since I was given unsupervised access to pens and am unable to write anything shorter than a trilogy. I (now) live in sprawling Northern Ireland which is greener than the green parts of England with my awesome boyfriend and 3 demon cats.
I spend my time lost in imaginary worlds,running my online jewellery shop, taking nature photos or watching bad movies.
Visit me on Facebook or just leave me a comment on this blog. I love comments 🙂