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How I Got My First Novel to Print
When I wrote my first novel, I was excited. That was in 1997 and I wrote it in less than four months. I had always dreamed of writing a novel, but I always seemed to find excuses not to sit down and just write it. After a life-changing event, I re-evaluated my life and what I wanted to accomplish. One thing I always wanted to do was write a novel. Actually, many novels. It had been a long-held dream of mine to become a writer when I retired, but I was forced to reevaluate that long-term goal. I told myself, “If I don’t write a novel now, I may never write it. Life is too short not to follow your dreams.” It set in motion my dream of writing my first novel.
I had a few ideas for a novel, but one idea stuck with me for days after I made the decision to write a novel. I wanted to explore an abused woman and the complexities of love and betrayal that come from that abuse. I already had a character in mind who would be my hero. She was a tough woman, proud but angry and bitter, and she endured some incredibly harrowing experiences in her life. I wanted to capture her spirit on paper and tell the reader why she has survived.
Once I decided on my main character, it wasn’t hard to populate the novel with other characters of color to bring the story to life. To create compelling characters, I use the characteristics of people I know, their personalities, their particular disorders and quirks to make the story interesting and believable. I wanted the characters to sound real to my readers. I wanted readers to care about the characters. I wanted readers to want to know the characters, enter their worlds and feel their pain and sorrow.
After finishing the novel, I felt I had achieved my first goal as a writer: to put the work on paper. I did. I spent several more months tweaking the novel and making changes here and there until I felt I had said all I could say about the characters at that point. My baby was done.
It was time to see what others thought of my baby, my novel, so I sent the manuscript to many book publishers only to receive rejection letters saying my work wasn’t what they were looking for at the time. My first rejection letter shocked me because I had not expected such a blatantly negative response from a publisher. I was waiting for feedback on why it didn’t fit, but it didn’t. So I shelved the book for a few years.
I realized that I didn’t know a lot about publishing, and before I decided to jump naked into those waters again, I needed to learn a little more about the world I had planned to make a career out of. I read, researched and printed all kinds of articles from the internet about book publishing. When I came across self-published articles, I really noticed it. At that time, in the late 90s, self-publishing required huge financial investments. To get a small print run, you have to invest a lot of money, with no guarantee that your investment will pay off. I shelved the idea and decided to continue focusing on traditional book publishers to get my book into bookstores.
I waited another couple of years and continued my research. I also decided to write a couple more novels while I wait for the right moment to get my books on the market. I researched the types of books that were selling on the shelves and decided to write some short stories in the same genres. I could always go back and turn them into novels if the notion struck me.
In 2004, I came across Print on Demand publishers and decided it was the way to go. I could self-publish my novel without a huge investment and a stockpile of books I couldn’t get out of the spare bedroom in my apartment. I didn’t have that concern with POD publishers. I only printed what I wanted to sell. There were no backlogs and no inventory that I was responsible for selling to recoup my initial investment. I could recoup my initial investment by selling just 200 books. And I did it.
I researched POD publishers and chose one from Canada, Trafford.com. I studied the website and the guidelines for submitting a novel to print. I decided on a book size of 5″ x 9″ x 6″ and decided that I wanted it to be paperback. I checked the prices on Trafford.com and chose an offer that would provide an ISBN number for my novel. . I will also retain all copyright to the book. Through book distributors, I could take my novel to book wholesalers, chain stores, online bookstores, and independent bookstores. I was well on my way to getting my book out into the world. to read.
However, I made a few mistakes that first-time authors make. I didn’t get my books reviewed before going to print, so after that it proved more difficult to get the book into mainstream markets and I didn’t get the sales I had hoped for. Nor do I plan a marketing strategy for my novel. I guess I’ll learn it as I go. Also, I didn’t promote my novel as well as I could, mostly because I didn’t think I would have to spend all my time promoting it. I just thought money would fall from the sky.
What a wake up call! Money didn’t come in or fall from the sky. I had to seriously rethink how I wanted this new writing career to work. Being a writer wasn’t just about writing and publishing a book. To be a successful writer, I had to promote my book so that it would stick in the minds of readers so that they would want to buy it.
I learned that the hardest part of being a writer is learning how to promote yourself. It takes hard work, persistence, and most of all dedication on the part of the author, which is me, to go out and let the world know that I have a book that should be read.
So now I’m hustling along.
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