What I’ve Learned

I never planned to write a book.  I wanted to write, but fear prevented any attempt to put my fingers to the keyboard and start. Last November, I took the plunge and participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  From those thirty days of writing 50,000 words, the character of Phee Jefferson came to life.  When I was done, I liked the story.  In thirty days of writing, the characters became real.  I could see their relationships and imagine everyday scenarios for them.  I got the crazy idea to go the indie publishing route, so I put the novel together and published it as Death is Long Overdue.  

It’s been a few months since I released the first book.  Along the way, I’ve learned several lessons that I hope will guide other writers who choose to meander down the indie author path. 

Amy’s Rule #1:  Write it and walk away.  Write the story.  It has a life of its own and needs to take form.  Once the final word is on the page, save it and walk away.  Don’t read it, think about it or talk about it for at least a week or two (longer if you can stand it).  Know that you can’t be objective about your newly born creation. After a few weeks, you become less attached and can review it with a critical eye.  You can slash that awful paragraph you thought was phenomenal when you wrote it but now realize doesn’t move the story forward and is really just taking up space.  I edited Death is Long Overdue immediately after writing it and missed critical errors in grammar (passive voice, overuse of words, etc.) because I was too attached to my infant novel at the time. Since I went the self-publishing route, I corrected the published ebook and paperback in a brutal two week marathon of rewrites this month, but I may have lost future readers due to freshman mistakes. 

Amy’s Rule #2:  Hire a proofreader/editor.  Friends are great for beta readers and for feedback on scenes and the story itself; however, they realize this is your baby and may be tentative to give constructive criticism.  The ideal situation is to hire a professional to proofread for grammar, etc. and edit for story, but if that isn’t a feasible option, invest in one of the myriad of programs available.  I’ve chosen to use ProWriting Aid for my second novel, Summer Reading is Killing Me, and it’s made my self-editing faster and more objective.  The computer doesn’t care that I love a certain word.  For example, I learned I write “just” just a little too much.  It highlights it and prompts me to get rid of at least 4 uses of it out of the 10.  Fortunately, I have a friend who edits for story.  She doesn’t mince words when she reads a scene.  It either works or leaves her flat.  If she’s not sure, she’ll ask “why” so if I can’t justify it, I delete it or rewrite it.  Make sure you have one person in your arsenal willing to do this if you can’t afford to hire someone to edit for content. 

Amy’s Rule # 3:  Read, Read, Read. Read as much as you can about writing, marketing and publish.  Review those darn grammar rules you thought you’d never use after graduation.  I have stacks of books, bookmarked sites and lots of great pins on my Pinterest board to help tighten my writing and guide me through the maze of self-publishing.  I published the first book through Amazon.  Amazon is user-friendly and is a great way to start if you are publishing your first book.  I took advantage of their KDP Select program which allows subscribers who participate in Kindle Unlimited to check out my novel.  You can use it as a tool to build a fan base.  By choosing this route, however, I am restricted to publishing my ebook with Amazon for 90 days. This prevents me from releasing the book to Nook, Kobo, GooglePlay etc. until April 2015.  For the second book, I plan to utilize Aerbook for ebook format and both Amazon and Ingram for the paperback version.  Learn from the mistakes others have made and also from their successes.  The great thing about the indie author crowd is their willingness to support each other.  If I had researched and read before publishing, I would have known to purchase my own ISBN; realized the restrictions of publishing through Amazon; and would have known that if you want people to read your book, you need to learn to promote, promote, promote.   

Amy’s Rule # 4: Don’t be afraid to break the rules:  What works for me may not work for you.  Indie authors are all about breaking free from the rules of traditional book publishing.  At this point, I plan to continue down the indie path for several reasons.  First, I have a stressful day job. I think the pressure I might get from an agent or publishing house would add too much stress and take away the fun I have writing. This may change, but for now, I’m okay with independent publishing. I formed my own publishing company, Bella Lilly Press, so I can publish under my own imprint rather than CreateSpace, etc.  This also allows other independent authors to publish under my imprint in the future. Second, I like having control over my writing as well as how much or how little I market, promote, etc.  Of course, being independent means I do it all myself, but it also means I don’t have to do something I don’t like.  Third, I do this because I enjoy it.  I like my characters. I like seeing what they’ll do next.  One night last week, I was writing and became so invested in the story when I finished the chapter, I raised my fist and cheered.  I was writing it, but even I couldn’t wait to see how it ended.  Crazy!  Thank goodness my Jack Russell Terriers, Watson and Fritz, ignore my sudden outbursts.  I don’t want to lose that “thrill of the write” by compromising for a publishing house’s bottom line.    

I hope you’ll follow along with me as I continue Phee’s attempts to solve crime in the small village of Miller’s Cove. In Summer Reading is Killing Me, Phee stumbles upon a body in Longfellow Park.  The victim is Elody Campbell, famous for being famous party girl and daughter of Senator Richard Campbell. Someone made sure Elody’s party days are over.  Soon, Miller’s Cove is overrun with paparazzi, and the town is in a tizzy.  This time, Phee’s not solving the mystery alone.  Her sister, Juliet, is along for the ride.  Will the two of them catch the killer or will the case be too hot to handle for a small town librarian and her free-spirited sister?   (Release date:  May 1, 2015)

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Book Signing

When:  May 15, 2015 at 4:00 pm.

Where:  Dahlgren General Library at the NavSea base in King George, Virginia

I will be reading from my two books, Death is Long Overdue, and my upcoming release, Summer Reading is Killing Me, and talk about the indie book publishing process.  Both titles will be available for purchase.

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