What it’s really like to be an author

being an author

So today I’m going to be debunking some myths and basically just discussing what it’s like to be an author, because sometimes there’s some confusion on what it’s actually like…so here I go.

Myth #1: Being an author is glamorous.

I’m going to be frank with you.  Being an author is not glamorous.  I don’t know how this myth came about, but for some odd reason authors in movies and such are always portrayed as these super rich, snobby, beautiful/handsome, worldly creatures.  Not that there aren’t authors who make tons of money – there are, obviously – but for the most part, nope.  Writing is hard, and publishing is hard, and being an author is hard.

It’s hard work, not only the writing, but the marketing as well (because – let me debunk another myth for you – publishers don’t do all the marketing).  Authors are authors because they love to write, not because it’s easy money.  You most likely can’t make a living off of being an author alone.  So if you know some authors, show them some love, buy their books, etc.  And if you’re thinking about becoming an author, I’m not trying to discourage you at all – just go into it for the right reasons; because you love it.

Myth #2: Writing is easy.

So I published my first book when I was fourteen and I guess I can understand how this gave everyone around me the impression that writing was easy, but I got a lot of people coming up to me with the attitude that, “If Pauline, a kid, could write/publish a book, then surely I can too!”

It took me about a year to write my first book, another year to research querying, send out letters to agents and publishers, and then finally research and attempt publication.

Nonetheless, I had people coming up to me, asking how to get published and even – *gasp* – how to write a book.  Writing is not easy, guys.  And if you’re a fellow writer yourself, I’m preaching to the choir.  You know how you sit at the computer at three in the morning, banging your head against the keyboard because you’ve been there for three hours and absolutely nothing has come out of your brain and onto the paper.  You know what it’s like to start a story from scratch, tearing your hair out the whole way through because one day you love it and the next day you hate it.

Authors don’t just sit down and write a book, smiling and drinking coffee the whole time like it’s no big deal.  It is a big deal.  It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.

And yet, I keep doing it.

Myth #3: Publishing is easy.

If this were true everyone and their brother would be published.  Publishing is not easy at all.  I started querying agents and publishers when I was thirteen, researching and emailing like crazy, and finally signed with a publisher at sixteen.  That’s three years.  And even though that’s not an astronomical amount of time, it’s still a long time to wait.  It is hard to get a publisher.  It’s an insanely competitive business.  I have so many rejection letters filed away in my email account I could probably turn them into an entire book of rejection compilations.  I’m talking hundreds, here.  Probably more.

Myth # 4: Once you get one book published, you’re in.

Okay, kind of.  I guess.  But not really.  Just because you found a publisher who agreed to publish one of your novels doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed to publish anything else by you.  If your book is successful and they like your next works, then yeah.  But they always have the right to turn you down again.  It’s just the way it works.

 

A few other things to consider….

 

Being an author consists of a lot of WAITING.  Publishing moves at an absolutely glacial pace.  It takes roughly a year to write and edit a novel.  That’s long enough right there.  I’m going to assume on average a year to find a literary agent or publisher, and then another year once the contract is signed for your book to come out.  That’s an average of three years.  And other than the writing a lot of that time is spent refreshing your email inbox hoping for some replies from literary agents and publishers.  It takes a lot of time.  Lots and lots of it.

 

Being an author consists of a lot of REJECTION.  In case you hadn’t guessed.  You will face rejection and criticism left and right and I’m not trying to discourage you if you’re a writer, only help prepare you for what’s coming.  Develop a thick skin and soon.  Because authors get tons of rejection letters and tons of criticism (not to mention the bad reviews that come after your book is published – because EVERY book gets at least one).

 

So basically writing isn’t glamorous, easy, or money-making.  That’s depressing, right?  But the main thing is that authors love to write.  That’s why we’re here.  We write because we love it to death and can’t stand our lives without it.  And we work hard and stay up nights grueling over a keyboard for the satisfaction of seeing our books in print.  Not for the money or the fame (fame? What’s that?) or the “glamour”.  But because we love it.

MECHANICAL GIVEAWAY!

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Soooo, in honor of MECHANICAL’s one year anniversary, I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway and I’ve decided to post about it on my blog (with pictures!).

The link to the giveaway is here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18325560-mechanical , and information about the giveaway is below.

One winner will receive books 1 and 2 of the Mechanical Trilogy (MECHANICAL and PERFECT), both books will be signed, along with three bookmarks.

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The first two books in the Mechanical Trilogy, MECHANICAL and PERFECT

Both copies are signed. :)

Both copies are signed. 🙂

Aaaaand bookmarks!

Aaaaand bookmarks!

Why Twitter should matter to you

So you’ve written a book and you’re thinking about getting it published, or maybe you’re already published.  Maybe you hear about Twitter every once in a while, or maybe you even have an account.

Twitter, you say?  What does this have to do with writing and selling novels?  Well, I’m going to be telling you about the importance of Twitter to you, as an author, and not just Twitter but social media sites in general.  Because believe me, they are much more important than you think.

 

Creating a platform.

 

Twitter is great for creating a platform and before you ask what a platform is, it’s basically followers and people who like you and your books (here’s a more detailed post I wrote here: https://paulinecharris.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/marketing-the-importance-of-the-author-platform/comment-page-1/)  And platforms are insanely important.  Especially as a self-published or indie author, a platform is everything.  You need one and Twitter is a great place to start building.  The great thing about Twitter is that it’s pretty easy to meet people and get followers.  You follow some people with similar interests, you start some conversations and you get a follower.  Now, you’re not going to get a million followers overnight, but one hundred followers who are interested in you and your work is better than one thousand who don’t really care at all.  So try to build relationships and get to know people.  I’ll bet you’ll  meet some interesting people and learn lots of stuff (I definitely have!).

 

Creating a brand

 

This is a lot like building a platform, but just a little different.  Remember, you as an author, are a brand.  People come to you because they like your books, so you need to stay consistent and interesting as the brand for your novels.  So create a persona.  Tweet about things that have to do with your book, like fun articles about writing, or maybe about robots if your book happens to be about that, etc.

 

Marketing

 

Twitter is also a great place to do some easy marketing.  But before you go ahead and tweet every thirty seconds about how great your book is, hold off.  Remember, you don’t want to bombard people’s feeds with nothing but links to your books.  Instead, you can be strategic.  You can tweet excitedly about your book’s cover reveal, or its release date.  Maybe your book is on sale for $0.99 or you’re coming out with a new one.  Keep tweets about your books to only when you have something to say about them.  And then keep the rest of your tweets fun and interesting.  I know from personal experience, I never click on the random tweets sent out in hordes with nothing but links to people’s books.  Instead, if I’m intrigued by the person, I’ll then go check out their book.

 

And finally, I’ve found countless books on Twitter alone, perusing tweets and fining new authors whose books I love.  So if I found new books on Twitter, and other people have found mine, think of how many new readers you might gain.

 

Good luck with your books and have a great day!

 

~ Pauline

WRITING: How to Combat Distractions

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Okay, so we’ve all been there.  You haven’t written a word in a week, you finally force yourself to sit down at your computer, you open your document, you stare at it for a little while and then…something grabs your attention and yanks it away.  Whether it be family, friends, pets, or just about anything on the internet (I’ve been so uninspired by writing before that I started googling how to write good kissing scenes…) you need to learn how to blot out any and all distractions so you can get down to the good stuff: your book.

 

DISCONNECT FROM THE INTERNET.

 

And yes, this is in ALL CAPS.  This is super important, at least for me, because the internet holds so many wonderful things you could seriously spend the rest of your life perusing its many worlds.  “But wait,” you might say.  “What if I need to look something up for a scene I’m writing?”  And yes, this does happen.  Sometimes we need the definition of this word or have to look up how to hijack a car or whatever, but really, how many times do you actually stop writing, look something up, and then continue?  In contrast, how many times do you stop writing to look something up and then get lost in the internet only to find a few hours later you only wrote a few sentences?  Yeah.  So get offline.  I know for me, this is insanely helpful because then there isn’t even that temptation.

 

Create a good writing space.

 

I think writing space is completely underrated.  I know for me, my writing space is hugely important.  Especially when I’m staring at my blank screen, dying a little inside when the words just won’t come, and I suddenly have the urge to clean the entire room, or find some knickknack on my desk that I spend the next ten minutes toying with.  I think writer’s block and then writing in general just brings out the insane side of people.  So combat that with a clean and inspirational workspace.  When I sit down to write for a long time, I make sure my desk is cleaned off, I have paper and pencils in case I want to jot down notes, and my desk is right next to a window so I can look out when I’m contemplating a scene.  When the environment around you is organized and inspiring, your mind will feel the same way.

 

Set aside a time of day when you won’t be bothered.

 

And if you have pesky friends or family who insist on barging in in the middle of inspiration, tell them ahead of time what you’re doing.  Just explain you’ll be holed up in your office or room or wherever for an hour or so and ask them not to bug you.  Also, if you purposely set aside a time, say 5 o’clock, you’re more likely to stick to it, rather than if you just say “sometime today”.

 

Force yourself to write.

 

Although we try hard to get rid of distractions, sometimes we have to admit that we welcome them.  So if you’re having a hard time writing, force yourself to sit down at your computer and write for twenty minutes.  Twenty minutes isn’t that long, right?  Well, I’ll bet by the time you’ve lived through that grueling twenty minutes, you’ll start to get into your writing and then nothing will pull you away.  It’s always the first stretch that’s the hardest, so just keep going.

 

So hopefully this was helpful and good luck with your writing!

 

~ Pauline

A New Perspective on Literary Agents – What Books Would YOU Represent?

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So the other day I was examining literary agent responses, partly discouraged because I’ve gotten so many agent rejection letters over the years, and partly intrigued.  I looked at the various rejection letters I’d gotten, and then compared them to the three offers of publication I’d gotten for my book I’d written a few years ago.  Three offers, and basically hundreds of rejections.  And I wondered, what made three of them love it, and hundreds more just turn it aside?  What is it really that makes an agent or a publisher want your book?  Sure, everyone says good writing and a good story and obviously that plays a huge part in it, but you always hear the stories about authors who were turned down many times only to go on to be best sellers.

If you were an agent, how many books would YOU represent?

So, instead of beating my head against the wall and wondering why so many agents keep rejecting my current manuscript, I decided to do a little experiment.  I noticed a trend in all my rejection letters – the literary agent just didn’t love it enough.  And if you’ve ever received a reply like this, then maybe you can understand the frustration.  I mean, what is that supposed to mean?  Well, I took a step back, examined all the replies and really started thinking.  Literary agents claim they need to absolutely love the manuscript before taking it on, so I sat back and thought, how many books do I actually love?

And it turns out, not that many.  I went through my bookshelf, one book at a time, refreshed my memory on what it was about and asked myself if I was a literary agent, would I represent this author and their book?  And on my entire bookshelf of a few hundred books, there were probably only about 8 of them that I would consider.  And this is out of tons of bestselling YA books here.  This is nothing like the slush pile an agent goes through; these are well edited, published novels.

There’s a huge difference between like and love.

I realized there were lots of books that I liked, that I enjoyed reading and thought were fun, but there were only a handful that I loved.  There’s a huge difference between reading a book and going, yeah this is good, and then putting it away, or reading a book and going, ohmygoodnessgracious I have to share this with all my friends!  And the latter is what you want out of a literary agent.  Think of a book you read that you thought was just okay.  Would you want a literary agent who felt that way about your book?  They probably wouldn’t have the drive to push your book forward, to tell everyone about it and really make sure it succeeds.  And can you blame them?  Would you be able to promote a book that you didn’t really care about?

So writers, when the rejection letters start piling up, remember that publishing isn’t just hard, it’s subjective.  When agents close their rejections with that phrase we’ve got memorized by now – another agent may feel differently – they mean it!  Just like some people love a book like The Hunger Games and some people hate it, literary agents will feel the same about your book.

And I encourage you to try my experiment.  Go to your bookshelf or think of the recent books you’ve read and ask yourself if you would really represent it.  Count in your head the books you love, love, love, and I’m sure you’ll find it’s a pretty small number compared to all the things you’ve ever read.  I know that helped me feel a little better about the querying process.  You just have to find the right fit, and if it’s meant to be, you will.

How to deal with rejection letters

rejection letters blog

Okay.  Take a deep breath.

Rejection Letters.

Yeah, they suck.  But it’s okay because everyone gets them.  Really.  Practically every author who’s ever written anything has had to deal with at least one rejection letter.  (Other than those ridiculously rare writers who talk about their rejection-free journey to publication, but whatever.  We’re not talking about them.)  So this post is basically going to talk about the sadness of rejection letters (because yes, they are very sad) but also why you shouldn’t be discouraged by them or let them get you down about your book.

Just a quick tidbit of information: it took J.K Rowling about seven years to get a publisher, or so I’ve heard.  Yeah, bestselling author of the ridiculously popular Harry Potter series.  Makes you wonder how stupid those previous publishers feel right about now.  But the point of this story is that even the great ones have dealt with their fair share of rejections.

Types of Rejection Letters

Anyway, let’s talk about the different kinds of rejections, because they are not all created equal.

Form Rejection: Okay, these can be a bit frustrating sometimes, I know.  But it really doesn’t mean anything, other than the manuscript wasn’t right for the literary agent/publisher for who knows what reason.  Don’t dwell on these.  It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your writing or your story.

Personalized Rejection: These are better!  And I know it’s still a rejection, but this is good.  If the agent/publisher spent the time to write you a personalized note, it means they saw something there that was worth commenting on.  And feedback from a professional in the business is always a good thing.

Revise and Resubmit: Even better!  The agent/publisher didn’t feel it was ready enough yet (and that’s the key word here) but liked the story enough to consider a revised version.  This is great news.  It means something has grabbed their attention.  Now, whether or not you want to take their advice and revise, is up to you.  Remember this isn’t a guarantee they’ll take you on, so don’t expect that, but like I said before, feedback is always a good thing.  And if you want to, by all means, revise and resubmit!

And instead of falling into a pit of despair papered by all those depressing rejection letters…

…use them as a foundation to make you a better writer.  And not only a writer, but an author.  Authors will always face rejection, whether in the form of a rejection letter, or in the form of bad reviews.  Every book will get at least a few bad reviews, there’s no way around that.  And if you’ve had enough rejection letters to toughen up your skin a bit, these won’t sting as much.  You’ll go, “Rejection?  Again?  No biggie, I’ve heard that before…”

Now here’s the biggest tip I can offer about rejection letters and I know once I started taking this to heart, it helped me so much when those rejection letters started piling up.  Don’t take it personally.  The agent/publisher could have rejected your book for a millions reasons, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a terrible writer.  Have you ever read a book you just didn’t like?  Maybe you didn’t connect with the characters, or it just wasn’t your thing.  Well, agents/publishers feel the same way.  So don’t let rejections affect you too much.  It isn’t personal.

And what should you do if you keep sending out query letter after query letter and get nothing but an inbox littered with rejection letters?  Don’t give up.  I’ve gotten good rejection letters, bad rejection letters, and I’ve even cried over a few of them.  But at my lowest point (so far) in my writing career, sitting on my bedroom floor with a box of tissues and the hundreds of rejection letters I’d sent over the course of three years, I examined my situation and realized…I love writing.  And that rejection letters or no, that’s never going to change.

So keep writing and keep querying and overall, don’t give up.

Have a lovely day and don’t let rejection letters get you down. 😉

~ Pauline

NaNoWriMo – Eating an Elephant One Bite at a Time (or whatever)

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NaNoWriMo week one – done.  You made it!  You survived your first week of writing and plotting and pulling your hair out and your story is on its way to being great.  Now, to tell the truth, it only gets harder from here on out.  From my experience, the first week is the easiest.  You’ve just started, you’re excited about your story, you’re excited about NaNoWriMo, and you have all this energy to pour into your book.  Week two is a little different.  For me it’s when the doubt starts to creep in and the frustration and the laziness.  I can already feel it coming on.  But don’t let that get to you!  Here are a few tips to beat the rest of this month – or, better yet, conquer it!

Have you ever heard the expression, “The only way to eat an elephant is by eating is one bite at a time.”?  (If not that’s okay, the first time I heard it I thought it was the weirdest thing I’d ever heard)  But basically, try to look at your novel not as a whole, but one day at a time.

As you’ve probably already noticed, NaNoWriMo is a huge creative-packed whirlwind roller coaster where you don’t have any time to do anything but think about your book.  It’s obsessive.  So use that obsessive energy to channel your writing juices.  Do anything you can to get your mind glued to your novel as much of the time as possible.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I use things like Pinterest, playlists, and even set backgrounds on my phone and computer to my book’s cover, or things that will inspire me about the story.

Now, I know that creativity and inspiration are elusive little brats, so there are going to be times when sitting around trying to get the story in your head and waiting for motivation to strike just isn’t going to happen.  And don’t despair and give up, because it happens to the greatest of writers.  Here’s where you toughen up, look at everything critically and say to yourself, “You can do it.”  Say it out loud.  I’m serious.  Stare at the screen, close your eyes, or go look yourself in the mirror, and tell yourself you can do it.  Because hearing it with your ears makes it more real.  Think back on all the previous days you’ve survived (or suffered) through this past month.  About ten days, maybe?  And remind yourself that you made it this far, so you can keep going.  You survived each day of writing almost 2,000 words and here you are to do it again.  If you had the stamina to do it ten times before, you can get through this month – just remind yourself.

And remember that NaNoWriMo is great is that it breaks down the novel for you.  It tells you how many words you have to write a day to get to the finish line on time.  So don’t look at that ominous “50,000 word” goal on the screen, sigh in devastation, and claim you can’t do it.  Don’t think that thirty days isn’t nearly enough time to write a novel.  Look at that 1,667 words you have to write today, and don’t think any farther than that.  One day at a time.  One bite at a time.  And before you know it, you’ll be done with the whole elephant.

Good luck with your NaNo novel!

~ Pauline

NaNoWriMO – Is It Right For You?

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner – yay!  I’m so excited because last year was my first year doing it and I had SO much fun.  So this post is going to be dedicated to what NaNoWriMo is, how it works and whether you should do it.

Now, personally, I think NaNoWriMo is right for anyone and everyone.  I think it’s a great experience, even if you don’t necessarily call yourself a writer.  And if you are a writer then you have no excuse to shirk out on this lovely adventure.

First off, let me explain what it is because when I first heard about it I had a heck of a time trying to figure out what this random nonsense word meant and why everybody was so excited about it.  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it’s a challenge that tons of people participate in to completely 50,000 words of a novel in the thirty days of November.  That comes out to roughly 1,600 words a day.  You can go to nanowrimo.org to sign up.

Now, here’s a list of reasons why you should definitely go do exactly that – sign up!

 

  1. It’s actually pretty fun.  I know sitting down to write 50,000 words in thirty days sounds somewhat daunting, but it’s actually the most fun I’d ever had writing a novel.
  2. It’s not as hard as you’re making it sound in your head.  “50,000 words???  What????”  Think about it.  1600 words a day.  That’s about the length of a short essay.  (And by the way, the editing comes later – the words don’t even have to be good).  You can do it!
  3. This will be the most creative thirty days of your life.  Seriously.  Thinking up a story, writing it, and fixing it along the way summons so much creativity you don’t even have time to think about anything else besides your novel.  The writing will be easier because that’s all you’re thinking about.
  4. You don’t have anything to lose.  The worst that can happen is you don’t finish in the thirty days and you end up with X amount more words to your book.  That’s X less words you have to write later!
  5. Sitting at day 30 with the finished 50,000 words (or completed novel) is the best feeling in the world.  I’m not even kidding.  I was so relieved and so proud of myself when I finished last year.  I signed up as a kind of joke, thinking that I might finish in thirty days.  And the fact that I did, made me feel ridiculously good.  It’s a lot of hard work, I’m not going to lie, but it’s such an amazing experience.

So, go do it!  Go sign up and get to plotting your NaNo novel!  Because it’s a great and completely doable challenge, and it’s fun.

Have a lovely day and good luck with NaNoWriMo!

 

~ Pauline

“FLAWED” copies!

Today, ten lovely copies of FLAWED showed up on my doorstep. 🙂  It’s like an early birthday present (I turn 18 on the 24th) so I’m pretty happy. 😉  Here are some photos of this spectacular day.

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I did this with the other two books…so I had to.

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All of them together! 😀

Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful day!

 

~ Pauline

what to do about your book cover

Now this is basically a follow up from the post I wrote last week, talking about the importance of book covers.  This post will talk specifically about your book cover and what to do to ensure its beauty. 😉

 

Self-Publishing

So first off, self-publishing.  As a self-publisher, you might get to the part about the book cover, shrug your shoulders and ask, “Who cares?”  Well, book covers are important and you need to be ready to invest some time into yours.  So, what should you do?

 

I designed my own cover for my self-published book and actually, it wasn’t all that hard.  I used freedigitalphotos.com to find a photo I could use on the cover (you can’t use any old photo you find on the internet because of copyright reasons, so make sure you use a sight where you can find free photos to use, or buy the rights to use).  I basically found the photo and used Microsoft Publisher to create the title and my name at the bottom.  Super easy.

 

Now, if you’re wanting a more professional look, or what you’re looking for isn’t going to be an easy task, you might want to consider hiring a cover designer.  Luckily, with the rise in popularity of self-publishing, there are people out there whose job is a freelance cover designer.  Pretty awesome.  Just do an online search and you’ll find TONS of designers.  A lot of the time, they’ll have pre-made covers, where they would then insert your title and name, that are below $100, and usually below $50.  If you want something custom made, it can get more expensive, but it all depends on the specific designer, so do some shopping around.

 

Traditional Publishing

Now, for traditional publishing.  As I’ve said before in a few previous posts, the cover really is up to the publisher once you sign the contract for your novel.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t get a say at all, or that you shouldn’t let your opinion be made known.  Now, I only have experience with a few smaller publishing houses, but for the most part they were pretty nice about it.  I was given a cover art questionnaire with a bunch of questions about what types of covers I like or don’t like etc.  And even if you don’t get something like that, don’t be afraid to tell the cover designer upfront what you’re thinking of in terms of a cover.  The publisher most likely wants you to like the cover of your book, so your input is important – just make sure it isn’t insulting or demanding.

 

Be polite about it.  The cover is the cover designer’s job.  You don’t want to be rude and even if you have a specific idea for the cover, don’t get in the way of their creativity.  And remember, the publisher has the final say – it may be your book, but they’re the ones who are trying to sell it.

 

And most importantly, don’t stress too much.  You’ve already written the book, and you’re already publishing it.  This is the fun part. 🙂

 

I hope this helps and good luck with your covers!

 

~ Pauline