When it comes to approaches to writing and getting published, a couple of pieces of advice for new writers that stuck with me, or were already in me and the advice rang true, were as follows. 1) If the only reason you’re writing is for profit, you’re defeating the purpose of writing. You write to create something beautiful and to connect with readers in a special way, not to make money. 2) When writing a first book, you shouldn’t hold anything back for later sequels. Give this one everything you have, and worry about sequels if you get that far.
When I started the book, I had every intention of getting it published traditionally. I figured every author was unpublished at some point and then got signed for their first book, so why not me? That was a more palpable idea when I started writing the book at the beginning of 2016. I’ve since learned that without a social media following, agents aren’t interested. I’ve also learned that the business model is to write a deep series, give away the first book for cheap, and make money on the backend of the series. I’m glad I didn’t know that when I started. I would have never done that even if I knew it was necessary, but I’m glad I didn’t have that daunting prospect in my mind when I wrote my book.
My problems with the new model are that writing high volume breaks the above two rules for me. It would mean putting a concern for having a writing career over creating something meaningful (I’m not saying this is true for everyone, but it is true my case). More importantly, it would mean holding back some ideas for later sequels, and like I’ve said in a previous blog, the magic happens when one combines his or her best ideas into the same story. This all leads to the chicken and egg problem of, how does one build a following (to promote the book) before one has anything to follow? Especially in my case if all the proverbial eggs (mixed metaphor) are in the basket of the first and potentially only book. In other words, why build a following if there will be nothing to follow by the time the followers exist?
I think I’ve come to terms with the idea of a newsletter, although I still hate that term. One reason for a newsletter is to keep my current book on people’s brains as I try to promote it, and get my followers hyped up and telling their friends about it. Another is it would be good to have a list of people who liked my first book because those people would potentially be interested in whatever else I decided to do down the road, whether it be another book, a project in different media, a ministry, etc.
The next question then is how to get people to sign up for a newsletter. The typical way is to give away something in exchange for a reader signing up. This makes a lot of sense in non-fiction, where the author is meeting different pain points of the reader, and can give away one product for the hope of selling future products to his or her list. In fiction this makes less sense to me, but I read a blog where a guy said he wrote a prequel novella to his series showing how the main character got into the crime solving business or whatever and gave that away for signing up for his newsletter. I tried to do this but the writer’s block wall popped up. I agree with Orson Scott Card that writer’s block is your friend. It’s how you know that what you’re trying to do isn’t working, and is telling you to do something else. I could probably keep pushing at it like I did for some parts of my book. Especially the first Raj chapter. But instead I’m planning to use a short story ‘from the world of Stolen Shroud’ which I’ve already written to give something to readers who sign up for the newsletter.
In my next post, I may discuss submitting the final draft for electronic and hard copies, and sending them out for reviews, if something else doesn’t come up sooner.