I've spent my whole life wanting to be an author. It is the only constant dream I have had. But I knew from youth that it was one of those hard to attain dreams, like being a successful singer or actor. Which is why I'd got it stuck in my head that I should pursue a more realistic job and keep writing as something for fun, on the side, that could potentially be something bigger with time and effort.
I regret that mindset. For so long I didn't put in the time or the effort. I think a part of me just didn't believe in it enough. So while I had files on my computers of unfinished novels and stories that never came to be, most my time was spent living, working, hanging with friends, gaming and so on...
My near death experience was the point that shifted my mind. For those unfamiliar with my story, in 2010 I got a terrible flu (assumed to be swine flu) that developed into pneumonia and empyema. I was hospitalized, had surgery, and spent several months recovering. It became very clear to me in my recovery that there were only two things I wanted most in my life: to be an author and to travel the world. Now, I live in South Korea and have several novels and shorts published.
But in 2014, the year my first novel came out, I knew so little about publishing. I barely even tried to find a publisher or edit my work. I just threw it out into the world, followed a bunch of tips that focused on getting the book into the eyes of the reviewers without really, deeply researching what I was doing.
So what do I wish I had known?
1. How much time, money and effort we writers have to put into marketing.
There is so much trial and error in ads, so much time spent promoting, attending online events. Authors need a marketing plan way before they publish. Learn to be a marketer, make mistakes as a newbie, and be prepared to invest in their books. But you also need to be prepared to lose money. We can all hope that if we are in it for the long run, it will pay off in the long run.
2. There will always be haters
Getting your first one star rating is devastating. Especially if it is worded in a way that feels like a personal attack. But that's the way it is. There will be people who love your stories. And there will be people who hate them. As much as the praise is wonderful, reading the bad reviews is always like a punch to the gut. Some people tell you to never read your reviews. But I don't. At the start I hurt, but now I can spot the reviews that will help me in the future and the ones that are just there to tear me down. I believe life brings countless learning opportunities. I see reviews this way too.
3. Having a team matters
You need an editor. Reviewers will judge you for your dodgy mistakes. You need a skilled cover artist. All readers judge books by their covers. If the cover is awful, they will not likely read it. You need reviewers and bloggers. You will spend countless hours trolling online blogs and review sites to find people to review your work for a free copy. Later, the reviewers who love your book become valuable for future launches. Don't lose their emails!
If you are an author, share some of the things you wish you'd known.
Until next time....
Stay Safe and Stay Gold,