Monday, August 1, 2016

Aspirations to Expectations - reflections on my pubiversary

Today is a very special day for me. It marks 7 years since I transitioned from aspiring author to published author. On August 1st, 2009 my first book A Marriage of Convenience was released placing me in the new and uncertain world of being a published author. It was published by Dorchester publishing in mass market paper back format. I could never forget the feeling of accomplishment when I walked in to Barnes and Noble and even Walmart and saw my book there. What joy!

I remember that day like it was yesterday. That day was also special to me because it was my birthday.  I held a birthday party to celebrate a milestone birthday. I could even remember what I was wearing: pretty green sleeveless elastic waist blouse and white maternity capris. I was pregnant with my third child and first boy (of course I was ecstatic). Life couldn’t be better. I felt I had accomplished my dream.

My family came from out of town. They camped at my home sleeping on air beds, futons, sofa beds, couches, and any surface that they could occupy for the party (and my family is large). Friends converged on my back lawn as my husband cranked out barbecue chicken and ribs to accompany the spread of Caribbean dishes.

The next day after the party I gave my family members a surprise. I outed myself. I gave them signed copies of them my books. They had no idea that I had published a novel. With the exception of my younger sister (now deceased) who was my confidant and my proof reader, they didn’t even know I wrote a book.

I was on cloud nine until a few weeks later one of my in-laws asked, “When is the launch party?”

Huh? I was ashamed to tell her that I didn’t know what a launch party was. I looked it up and kicked myself. Dang! I could have made my birthday party into a launch party and kill two birds with one stone. Major Faux pas!

That was only the beginning of faux pas to come. Actually it had begun long before when I signed the contract that gave me a measly 4% of sales. As one nerdy co-worker calculated, it was 15 cents a copy.

The next major faux pas came when my publisher asked me (after the book was published) for an outline of the things I would do to promote my book. Promote my book?! Wait, don’t writers write and publishers publish and promote books? It showed just how green and naïve I was. But thank God the publishers had put me in contact with Liane who introduced me to Novel Spaces and the world of blogging. Prior to that, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what a blog was.

Fast forward to today. I celebrate my birthday. I’m older, wiser. I have published five books since then, including a children’s story and a YA novella. Dorchester was bought out by Amazon. My contract is way better. I’ve used a small publisher to publish my most recent novels. I should be an expert right? Wrong.  I still don’t know what the heck I am doing when it comes to promotion. It changes every day. It changes with every book. Back in 2009, book trailers were the in-thing. I figured early on it would not work and refused to do it. Today, I’m hard pressed to find a book trailer.

What I learned from my experience now that I am a published author is that I still don’t know jack about being a published author. I still haven’t pinned it down to what works and what doesn’t. And nobody can because the markets are changing rapidly. I learned that getting the second novel published is harder than the first. And I learned not to give away my books to family and friends without a receiving a firm commitment to honestly review the book. I learned you have to be open to different methods of publishing and promotion. The last thing my reflections of being a published author revealed is that my expectations as an aspiring author were miles away from my experience as a published author.

So tell me, what are the differences between your expectations as an aspiring author and your experience one you got published?


Charles Gramlich said...

Yeah, these days things change so quickly I don't think any of us can keep up.

Maggie said...

Lots of surprises, some welcome, some not. But thank God book trailers didn't stick around!

Linda Thorne said...

When I started writing there was that "bleak" thought of fame and fortune, but I was no young chick at the time and I was realistic. Once I started hanging around authors and groups with authors, it was pretty obvious. Any publication I've had has been a great feeling. I love it and once in a while that tiny touch of possible fame and fortune rears it's head. Once I started being published, I was not surprised fame and fortune didn't go with it. That's probably a blessing as I was not in for a let down, but I'm been happy about the little things. I don't get many book reviews, but they are not bad. I'm happy to have people who connect me to my book, get happy about it. The "little" things like this count a lot for me.

amazon said...


Jewel Amethyst said...

Charles I think the internet and all the changes it brings is responsible for the accelerated rate of change in the industry. It's just a few years ago half of us on Novelspaces thumbed our noses at the thought of indie publishing. Since then almost everyone is involved in some form in indie publishing.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Maggie, I'm so happy trailers didn't stay around. I tried doing a homemade one once and I started doing research on trailers and the correlation with sales. I found none whatsoever. Word of mouth, people recommending the books to each other was much much more effective. In fact, I wrote a novella in an anthology or romance. One of the authors did a trailer on her story in that anthology. That book still lags in sales behind my first book for which I did almost zero advertising.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Linda I like your pragmatism and your optimism. I, like you, never harbored any expectations of fame and fortune, but I never anticipated the amount of frustrating work beyond the actual writing and editing. If I could have it my way, I'd just write and let someone else take care of the publishing and promoting.

Liane Spicer said...

Happy birthday again, Jewel!

As you know, my journey has been somewhat similar to yours, from the first ecstatic (4% royalty) contract with Dorchester, through Amazon's Montlake buyover of the contracts, and all the bumps and shakes, the shocks and uncertainties. After 8 years I figure I still don't know jack about this publishing business.

The rose-colored glasses broke a long time ago thanks to those reality checks, and I've come full circle to making the writing my primary focus once more, on telling my stories. I'm in this for the long haul, and whatever happens, happens. It's what I do, what we do.