A year ago today, I released my second ebook, A Confidence Carol, on Amazon. Amongst fanfare limited to mostly friends and social media (although this tweet still makes my life), the book quietly rose to the 12,298 spot on Amazon’s sales rankings before purchases sputtered and ACC became exiled to the isle of misfit ebooks (or, where most ebooks live).
While I am still patiently waiting for the phone call about the movie rights, from start to finish I still consider the project one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things I have ever done. And of course the experience didn’t come without a takeaway or two about book writing, amongst other things:
1. Hire An Editor
Truthfully, as I was writing the first draft, I wasn’t quite sure if I would actually need to hire an editor or not. I mean, I wrote and edited HTGAJISPR just fine by myself and amazingly sold 20 copies. “Why would this be any different?” I thought.
And then I gave the manuscript to my editor for a free trial hour of editing.
When I received the first 10 redlined pages back from Marilyn, my wonderful editor, she had already uncovered major plot holes, character inconsistencies, and grammar problems that I probably would have otherwise overlooked. While some of my cultural references went over her head or just otherwise confused her, without her polish I never would have felt comfortable enough to…
2. Share With Friends
I can only speak to writing, but I imagine this applies to all forms of art. Sharing your shit is freaky. Never mind that it is an open invitation for criticism; moreso I just felt pretty damn selfish asking six friends to not only read 30,000 words of unknown quality, but to then give me their honest feedback and opinions, no matter how harsh it seemed. And you know what? They were more than happy to do it, and it helped me more than I could begin to express.
My favorite comment (compliment?) came from my friend and reviewer, Dana (who told my brother who told me): “You know, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but this is actually pretty good.” While ebook reviewers can sometimes be soul-crushingly blunt, friends being blunt with you provides value that no anonymous reader can ever give.
On February 14, 2013, I went to the Starbucks next to my apartment to write the initial plot outline and character descriptions for ACC. Almost exactly 10 months later, I took a day off work to camp out in a Starbucks on the other side of town, solely so I could publish the book and compulsively check sales without having to feign doing work at my office job.
And I have never told anyone this—but in the few weeks leading up to release day, I slacked off. Bad. I let myself become distracted with some other things going on in my life, and the flame for my little-big project—my baby, if you will—dwindled, and I almost feel apologetic for not sticking around with it until the very end. I let up, and in a way I feel like I let it (and myself) down. ACC required a seasonal release given its subject matter and source material, but for future projects (if possible) I plan on getting much more of the legwork done long before even thinking about a release date.
It was nothing with the story itself but more finer details, such the formatting and layout within the .ePub file that would have made the whole thing slightly more professional looking. Which is especially disappointing considering I refused to settle on other aspects, like the cover, which went through many revisions:
Again, the story became what I envisioned it to be, but those few weeks leading up to the release left a sour taste in my mouth that I hope to never experience again. However, that all taught me another lesson…
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Outsource
Sure, there is nobility in DIY and all that I guess, but I’ll be damned if I ever code another ebook again. The plan for the next book is do print-on-demand or just go the traditional publishing route, but I have made a promise blood pact to myself that if I do ever write another ebook, I am hiring out for the coding work.
Another thing I plan to outsource is the marketing. The promotion I did do was limited, partly from a lack of time due to working on everything else involved with the book, partly because of those aforementioned distractions, but a main reason is just because I am…me.
Yes, every job and every freekin’ thing you do in life is “sales” in some manner of speaking. However, this is not a strong suit of mine, nor something I think I will ever enjoy. I don’t think I’ll have any qualms in the future about having someone else do this particular part of the trade that makes me feel irrationally dirty. I did some teaser posts on my blog and social media, and gave away the first chapter for free, but beyond that…not much else. I am starting to feel like the ebook “bubble” has burst anyway, unless you are a great series writer and/or a marketing genius (this is probably a limiting belief somewhat, but others have made this observation, too).
5. A Strange Kind of Love
The project and all it entailed—the 6AM wakeups (a habit that has stuck), the late nights at coffee shops, the compulsive email-checking for messages from my editor—was only something I could describe as a weird kind of…love. Not romantic love of course, but love of some variety nonetheless. I rose early with the project, went to sleep with it on my mind, and saw all of its ugly flaws and appreciated it anyway.
And when I finally let it go, I experienced some sort of weird postartum depression I had often read about but never experienced myself. During the winter I typically feel a little down as it is, and while I enjoyed the relief that came with finally setting free this project that was frankly, a pain-in-the-ass at times, there was still a small void in me that never really started to fill again until recently, when I started writing the next book.
6. Free That Idea
They say everyone has a book in them and/or one million dollar idea. I don’t know if either is true, but I do know just about everyone has that idea in them. That one idea, whether it’s a book or a screenplay or a Rube Goldberg concept that won’t leave them alone, that pops into consciousness at the weirdest times, continually, for months and even years.
I’m trying to do less rah-rah motivational writing than I was prone to in the past—frankly I think that shit is overrated and I am a subscriber to this lifehack more than anything else these days—but if you have one of those ideas…it’s worth it. Even if you have no idea how the hell you’ll accomplish it or if there’s no clear ‘point’ to it…just do one small thing toward it every day. You will thank yourself later.
I look back on A Confidence Carol—something that just popped into my head one night as I was going to bed—and I feel an unparalleled sense of fulfillment and…relief, knowing that I put that particular idea that I would probably still otherwise be thinking about, to rest.
And the thing is, setting free just one of those ideas makes every idea that follows seem more and more realistic.