1. Blog Tours are important. This year, I was lucky enough to take part in too many blog tours to list through Bewitching Book Tours, the Blog Tour Exchange, and many other blog tour organizers. I say that it is important not because I have thousands upon thousands of readers following my every blogging word, but because spreading the word about books is important. I was also lucky enough to have an amazing response to my own blog tour, so I know what it feels like to be on the other end, having other authors and bloggers tell people about your book. It's amazing! Word of mouth is everything for an author, so hosting tours can help them tremendously, and they will be grateful for the part you play. Which brings me to my next lesson:
2. Networking is important. Because of the tours and contests I've taken part in, I've met some amazing people and been able to take part in some really cool stuff, like the New Adult Fall Promotion that just wrapped up (side note: we're still giving away a Kindle! More details here), submit my very first short story for an anthology competition, take part in the fantasy blog group There and Draft Again, and so much more. I've also given away so many copies of my book that I lost track, donating them to other giveaways.
3. The connections you make and the friendships you build in the writerly world will pay off, big. I'm a big believer in you get what you give, but also be genuine. So many times, you run into people in the writerly world that are just out for themselves and only doing things for you in the hopes of getting something back in return. But then you find other people, people who genuinely support you and care about you, and you build this treasure trove of support that can be absolutely overwhelming. I met my critique group and my fantasy blogging group through making connections during online events and contests, and I wouldn't trade any of them for the world. I even got to meet two of my CPs a few months ago and it was awesome!
4. Don't get bogged down in social media. If you've ever read anything Kristen Lamb has to say, pay attention to what she says about social media. Granted, I don't follow all of her guidelines, but I do take her advice to heart. It's so easy to either become automated or overwhelmed, which means you are forgetting the point of social media: To stay connected to other people. You have to act like a person to connect. There are so many social media outlets. Facebook, G+, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc. I tend to follow one golden rule: I say something when I have something to say. I try not to spam with links to purchase my book and instead go for gentle reminders. Chances are, if someone is following your fanpage, they have either already read your book or know how to get their hands on it anyway. Much like writing, I try to post things that I would want to see from others. This also ties into the whole being genuine thing from #3.
5. Story bibles are a must if you are writing a series. I blogged about the encyclobibliogrimoire over at There and Draft Again, but I honestly don't have much of one, and I think one of my New Year's Resolutions will be to finally sit down and make one. I'm tired of flipping back and forth between drafts of the first book (of which there are many) trying to find that one spot where I described the freaking emblem of the Duillaine or Cahira.
6. I have more than one story in my head. I know, that seems like it would be a given since I am a writer, but it really isn't. I set out to write Heirs of War, which I've been working on for several years with no other story in mind (save a few fanfics here and there). I didn't think I'd write anything beyond it. And then it happened. I came up with the idea for Altar of Reality. And then it turned from a standalone into pretty much a guaranteed series. And THEN I came up with an idea for a sci-fi series that will pretty much have to wait since I have my hands full right now. Oh, and I managed to write AoR in first person, which I hate, and also was able to write a short story, which I also hate writing and reading (it always turns into something so much bigger, or I'm left wanting more). So, this year I learned that I am more of a writer than I thought I was.
7. If you are self-publishing, pay for a professional cover artist and editor. I can't stress these enough, really. My cover artist and editor are both two of my biggest supporters, and not just because I pay them (I hope haha). They are just amazing people and such a vital part of Heirs of War that I absolutely cannot imagine doing anything with the series without them. Heck, they are one of the biggest reasons I think about self-publishing all my works, just so I have the choice to continue working with them. It is thanks to their hard work that Heirs of War looks as good as it does now, and I have to say I think it looks pretty damn good. Especially since I'm now referring back to old drafts and mockup covers that I did...*cringe*
8. When you find an editor you want to work with, trust them. Trust them, and let them guide you to being a better writer. I feel so much more confident about my writing skills after working with Kriscinda Lee Everitt. I made TONS of mistakes, but she corrected me, taught me why they were bad, and made me laugh a lot along the way. I can't wait to see what I learn with book two. I'm anxious to get it to her for that reason--I crave more knowledge, and one of the best ways you can get that knowledge is by working one on one with an editor as brilliant and patient and awesome as she is. I could spend the rest of 2014 raving about her (and will probably do that a lot throughout 2014). I know it is so hard to put your baby in someone else's hands and let them pick it apart, but it will be so much better for it in the end. If you read the version of Heirs of War on Wattpad now, you'll see that there are around 11 POVs in the book. Believe it or not, that was after I narrowed it down and cut a few. Kriscinda and I had talked about this because it was a common piece of feedback I'd get. There were too many POVs, but I didn't know how to narrow them down even further without losing the story and the buildup to certain story lines. She helped me find a way how, and I feel like the story is so much better for it now. Trust. Your. Editor.
9. Wattpad is an awesome way to connect to readers. I have no idea if my Wattpad reads will translate into sales for book two, but it doesn't really matter at this point. My experience on Wattpad will still be worth it. I love how readers have fallen in love with my characters, how they make guesses and predictions about what is going to happen to them, and how they are clamoring for more. That keeps me going. I try to respond to all the comments I get, sometimes glossing over the ones I don't understand (Seriously: What's with comments showing up as highlighting part of a sentence and then having a comment on it that says something like 'Oh'. I don't get it, and have no clue as to how to respond.). I've had a few negative people on there, some downright mean, but thanks to the outpouring of support and love I get on a daily basis for the book, I am able to laugh their comments off.
10. Have a thick skin. Sometimes this means just focusing on the positive (like I just talked about with Wattpad), but other times it really means blowing off the bad things. I've had someone give a one star rating to Heirs of War with no real explanation as to why, and I've had someone else give three stars to Heirs of War, Destiny of One, which isn't even published yet. I didn't bother trying to get it removed because my feeling is "Meh." There are plenty of books that I didn't like that also happen to be best sellers with rabid fandoms. Clearly, those authors did something right, even if I don't personally see it. But opinions of art in any form are...well, opinions, and quite subjective. Just like how my husband enjoys Dream Theatre and I can be found singing along to Taylor Swift when he's not around.
11. I want to be a hybrid author. When I first decided to self-publish, I thought that was going to be it for me. I know it is a lot of work, but so is publishing period anymore. But I do still like the idea of working with a publisher. I don't need it to be the big five or anything. Smaller would probably be better for me. Would I ever turn Heirs of War over to a publisher? Probably not. I don't want to lose any ounce of creative control with that one. That's my baby. But Altar of Reality and anything else I write? That's another story. If anything, it might be a relief to let someone else help with costs and marketing so I can focus on HoW. I'm not sure if I'll ever get there. I'm only so patient when it comes to querying, so if I end up with another year of rejections, I'll probably still self-publish AoR. But I'm willing to give traditional publishing a shot while still holding on to my self-published works, so we'll see where I go from there.
12. Never look at sales. When I first hit publish with HoW, I was checking daily. Now I only check sometimes, because it can get really depressing to not see those numbers move at all. But when you don't look, it turns into a pleasant surprise of "Oh, look how many books I've sold on iBooks now! I didn't even know I'd sold one there!" instead of "Still three. Blarg!" The same thing goes for book reviews too, though this is something you want to periodically check just so you can know to put a call out for more reviews. You'd be surprised how many people don't review, even if they've told you how much they enjoyed your book.
13. Don't think about marketing when you are trying to write a book. Just don't. I'm working on the second book for HoW right now, and I've been so bogged down by this. The rough and terrible draft of this book that I wrote last year was 200k--twice the size of the first book. I thought I'd split it up, but now I'm not so sure. I still might, but that doesn't matter right now. What matters is that I get it written, and then I'll decide what to do from there. My deadline for finishing this book was December 31st, and that totally isn't going to happen. But now that I've given up on figuring out how I'll end up selling it? I'm on a roll.
And Now for the 14 Things I Hope to Happen in 2014:
- I hope I publish two more books in the Heirs of War series, at least.
- I hope to giveaway lots of books and swag. Why? Just because I love doing it.
- I hope to attend a writers conference.
- If sales permit, I hope to attend a writers event and have a table set up.
- I hope to attend a writer retreat with my wonderful critique partners.
- I hope to find a home for Altar of Reality.
- I hope to get to work on the sequel to Altar of Reality.
- I hope to get published in an alternate form other than self-publishing, whether it is a short story submission to a magazine or anthology, or traditionally publishing another book.
- I hope to sit down and create story bibles for the series I am working on.
- I hope to build even more amazing connections and friendships in the writerly world.
- I hope to review twice as many books as I did this year.
- I hope to find a balance between my writerly life and duties, and real life since I start classes back up in January (eep!).
- I hope to learn even more from my editor and critique partners.
- I hope to continue to host blog tours and help spread the word about the amazing books out there.