The steps to getting published, and avoiding the traps!

I’ve said this before, in fact I’ve said it several times, but apparently it needs repeating because over the past few days I have seen numerous posts on social media from unpublished authors who have been offered “contracts” by “publishers”. Why am I using speech marks? Because you have not been offered a contract by a traditional publisher, you have been offered a service by a vanity press, and yes, there is a HUGE difference.

I’ve been in this industry for a long time now. I’m published both traditionally and self, and the only time I have had to pay for anything to do with getting my book published, is when I did it myself. I work with three traditional publishers: Tirgearr Publishing, Totally Bound Publishing, and Evernight Publishing, and not once have I had to pay for anything other than private marketing, which I have done off my own back.

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So what should you be paying for? Well, when it comes to publishing a book there are several steps that need to be taken before it gets put on a shelf:

Write your story

Now write it again. Honestly, the first draft should never be the one you send out. To anyone! The first draft of a novel is a secret that only you should read. Why? Because it’s likely to be filled with unnecessary paragraphs, chapters and even characters. Read over it, and you will probably stumble into a plot hole along the way. Write your story, leave it for a few days, then read over it and fix everything you can.

Self editing

If you’re experienced in editing, you might find this stage slightly easier than other writers. Don’t rely on spellcheck to pick up on all your mistakes. There are plenty of apps and software out there that can help. Personally, I use Grammarly to go over my work and pick up on typos and misplaced commas. Whatever your process, self editing your work is a skill that develops over time and will improve with practice. You need to be harsh with yourself and try to read your book through different eyes. If you picked this book up and had paid good money for it, does it meet up to your standards as a reader?

Beta reading

Time to get your book out into the world.  A lot of authors rely on their mums or best-friends, which is where they fall. People who know you and love you, and want you to succeed, are going to tell you it’s great. You need to find a beta reader, or four, who has experience reading your genre, and can look it without bias. I highly suggest joining your local creative writers group. Read snippets out and get their advice, or buddy up with another writer and ask them to look over it.

Edit it again

Now it’s back from your beta reader, it’s time to take their notes and re-edit. Did they pick up on grammatical errors? Was there a plot hole you missed? Was there something that jarred with them? Fix it, because if they picked up on it, agents and publishers will too.

How are you publishing it?

Do you want to self-publish or find a traditional publisher? Speaking from experience, both routes are hard work, but self-publishing is definitely harder. If you self-publish, you will need to pay for everything yourself. You will need to be ruthless when it comes to editing and fine-tuning and cover design. You will need to understand the industry, know how to market and promote your book and monitor sales records. But, if you want to be traditionally published, then you will need to grow a thick skin and be prepared for rejection.

For the love of all that is good, do not go down the self-publishing route because you’ve been rejected. If publishers and agents said “no thanks”, it’s because your synopsis didn’t catch their attention or your opening chapters weren’t up to par. People will tell you not to take it personally, but you should. I’m sorry if that seems harsh, but the fact is that your book just might not be good enough and sellable. Of course, it’s possible that it hit the slush pile and you got a form rejection letter, but take another look at it. Can it be improved? Don’t give up, just don’t throw your toys out of the metaphorical pram and decide you know better than people who have been working in this industry for a hell of a lot longer than you.

However, do not fall into the trap of vanity press. If your chosen publisher says they’d love to offer you a contract, and you only have to pay £X, run. Run fast and don’t look back. No good publisher will ever ask you to pay for editing, cover design, or put money towards printing/publishing costs. EVER.

Editing

Yup. Time to edit again. Traditional publishers will assign an editor to you, who you will work with for several weeks until it is polished and scrubbed. If you’re self-publishing you’ll need to find someone to do it for you. DO NOT do it yourself. DO NOT let your best-friend do it (unless they are trained and qualified). Pay for it. Don’t be an idiot and think you can do it without help, because you can’t. I’ve been working as an editor for 11 years. I spent four years doing my degree, on top of several years of training, CPD, and work experience. I still wouldn’t publish a book that hadn’t been edited by someone else, because there will always be something you miss.

Trust me, I’ve read self-published books that have been self-edited, and I can tell within the first chapter. I don’t care if you think you’re good or if you’ve been doing it for years. And I don’t care if I personally know you. If you think you can self-edit and have a well-polished book at the end of it, you’re an idiot, and an arrogant one to boot. Self-editing is why the self-publishing industry has such a terrible reputation, because people write a book, stick it up without a thought, and readers cry into their cornflakes at all the terrible spelling mistakes, excessive use of commas, unnecessary description, repeated phrases, and massive plot holes. Floating body parts, jumping POVs, and simultaneous actions are distracting and proof of bad-writing and a lack of editing. I know, because these are all things my editors pick up on, every single time I write a book, and they are things I’ve come across that have made me send a book back to Amazon and demand a refund.

Cover design

Again, traditional publishers will have this covered. And, again, don’t do it yourself unless you are actually good at it and experienced. If you do, you’ll end up on Tumblr’s list of bad covers. I’ll admit, I did do my own cover for ‘Later‘, but it took me a bloody long time, and I have done work as a cover designer. I’ve been using Photoshop for several years, editing images for my husband’s photography company. I’ve watched hours and hours of YouTube videos and studied books back-to-front. I’m still not 100% happy with it.

And, you have to pay for licenses to use images, fonts, brushes… the list is endless, and expensive. Oh, did you think you could Google an image and use that? Sorry, but no. Copyright laws exist, and using an image because it’s on Google is not good enough. As the wife of a photographer, I can tell you how heartbreaking it is to see an image that has been worked on, and posted on a public forum to show off your skills, to then be used by someone without your permission. Particularly if that person claims it as their own. Taking images you don’t have the right to use will lead to your book being taken down from sales sites, and your backside being sued by the original artist/photographer. There are sites you can use for ‘free for commercial use’ images, such as Pixabay and Pexels, but you still need to be careful and check the licenses.

It’s much easier (although more expensive) to hire a cover designer. They are professional and experienced. If your cover looks like it’s been made by a five-year-old using Paint, it won’t matter how good the story is, it won’t sell.

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Publishing

A traditional publisher will sort all this out, without charging you. Go and sit down and have a cup of tea. If you’re self-publishing, you need to look at your options. KDP is by far the easiest, and if you’re using Kindle Unlimited, you literally upload it to Amazon and boom. Done. Otherwise, upload to Amazon and somewhere like Smashwords, which will then upload it to sites like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, etc. Self-publishing an eBook is not hard.

Print, is slightly more difficult. Personally, I just use Amazon. You will need to order proofs, which again costs money, to make sure your cover is straight and the words are in order, etc. But there are other options, and it really is best to look around. You’ll need to purchase an ISBN for print books, which is provided for free through Smashwords and Amazon, but many self-published authors prefer to buy their own.

Getting your book actually onto physical shelves is not so easy. In the UK, bookshops rely on Betrams and Gardners. If your book is not listed with them, it’s unlikely to be ordered by bookshops, and will remain online only. You also need to comply with UK law by sending a copy to the Book Depository in Edinburgh. See HERE for more details. This is a legal requirement, and not something you can skip around, if you’re based in the UK. Research your own country for their laws.

You will also need to price your book. Don’t be ridiculous and think your 30k novella is worth £4.99. It’s not. Equally, don’t price your 100k novel at 99p. This devalues all the other titles on the shelf. Price appropriately, and in according to other titles in your genre of similar size.

Marketing & Promo

Even if you’re traditionally published, you will need to pay for some marketing and promotional work. Some authors are able to hire a PA to help with this, but it is possible to do it yourself. Look around for sites like BookBub, eReader News Today, eBook Discovery, and Book Barbarian, who are all good, reputable sites, with guaranteed sales. Fussy Librarian and eBook Soda used to be good, but their reputation has dropped of late, with less sales during promotional periods. Remember you get what you pay for, so if you use free sites, it’s likely that you won’t see anything come back.

You can also use services that do blog tours and review tours. These, again, cost money, but guarantee reviews and a blog spot. It’s unlikely these reviews will be placed on Amazon though, and you do run the risk of being put on an unseen blog.

Marketing and promotional work should be done continuously. It’s not something you can do once and then forget about.

Getting published is hard work, and anyone who tells you it’s easy is either lying or has never been published. Do not fall for the lines of “oh, you can edit it yourself”, or “but all publishers charge”. If you truly want your book to be read and enjoyed by others, work your backside off, and don’t let your baby go until it’s wings are fully developed.

Tina Donahue’s Romance Author Love In – 35 Authors – 35 Winners – Gift Packs, GCs, Signed Books, Swag & More! #Rafflecopter #Giveaway

Tina Donahue’s Romance Author Love In – 35 Authors – 35 Winners – Gift Packs, GCs, Signed Books, Swag & More!

Win books, gift packs, gift cards and more with Tina Donahue’s giveaway, including an eBook (ePub) copy of Taking Care of Leah! (See link at the bottom.)

Blurb

English teacher Leah Beauchamp works with teenagers every day, but when she’s around sexy Ty Sinclair, she’s left feeling like one herself.

After escaping a bad relationship, Leah Beauchamp moves in with her pregnant sister and brother-in-law. Working as an English teacher, she spends her time lusting after the hot caretaker Ty Sinclair. But it’s not until a drunken encounter at the end of the school year that she realizes it might be so much more.

They decide to embark on a new relationship over the summer holidays. Then Ty’s preferences for BDSM come to the surface. Intrigued, Leah allows herself to be educated by her new lover. But after a house party goes horribly wrong, more secrets are revealed and Leah is left questioning how she truly feels.

Can Leah accept who Ty really is? Can she ignore his past? What about her own? Can she overcome her fears and concerns and relinquish control, or will their hot summer romance fizzle out once autumn arrives?

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Taking Care of Leah – £1.99 #ebook #eroticromance #totallybound

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Totally Bound

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Blurb

English teacher Leah Beauchamp works with teenagers every day, but when she’s around sexy Ty Sinclair, she’s left feeling like one herself.

After escaping a bad relationship, Leah Beauchamp moves in with her pregnant sister and brother-in-law. Working as an English teacher, she spends her time lusting after the hot caretaker Ty Sinclair. But it’s not until a drunken encounter at the end of the school year that she realizes it might be so much more.

They decide to embark on a new relationship over the summer holidays. Then Ty’s preferences for BDSM come to the surface. Intrigued, Leah allows herself to be educated by her new lover. But after a house party goes horribly wrong, more secrets are revealed and Leah is left questioning how she truly feels.

Can Leah accept who Ty really is? Can she ignore his past? What about her own? Can she overcome her fears and concerns and relinquish control, or will their hot summer romance fizzle out once autumn arrives?

Reviews

“I was rather impressed with this story. It’s fairly short, well-paced, and nicely balances the ratio of “story development” to “very steamy” scenes. And the steamy scenes are super-heated!” 4-STARS

“I felt Leah’s struggle about her past relationship and it made her stronger. Ty may have a bad boy past but he knows what he wants in life.
I enjoyed the story and the character’s.” 4-STARS

“If you are looking for a quick, sexy, read with a great story line then give it a try! A Must Read!” 4-STARS

Why I can’t sell for toffee

Just recently I have been inundated with requests and queries regarding the formats my books are available in. The majority of them are only available as an eBook, in fact the only book available in paperback is Taking Care of Leah, and even then, this is on a “Print on Demand” (or POD) service. I knew that my books had to reach a certain criteria before being available in print, so I emailed my publisher at Tirgearr Publishing what that criteria was, and she came back with a detailed and interesting response. It was pretty lengthy, but the gist of it was that each book has to sell 180 copies within a set period of time before it will be considered for print, and that we should all consider writing as a business, and treat it as such.. Absolutely fine, I understand that. But my problem (which I have blogged about before) is that I am a writer, not a saleswoman.

My college course was on Equine Business Management, meaning I  am qualified to run a riding school and livery yard. And the business management part of that course was limited – I essentially spent one day a week for two years, mucking out stables, clipping horses, and creating posters on different types of rug. Hubby however, is a salesman. And a damn good one. Unfortunately, he sells ink cartridges, printers and laptops. He does not sell books, and he hasn’t ever read a romance novel, so while he can give me a few pointers, he doesn’t have the contacts to really push. But yeah… pointers… How do you treat writing as a business? Particularly when you have a limited budget of like… zilch.

Communicate with your readers

Sign up to every single bit of social media going. I’ve done that. I have a Facebook account that readers / writers are welcome to friend, a Facebook page, Twitter account, Linked In, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, a website, and obviously this blog. I’m active on Facebook (perhaps a little too active), and Twitter, and I try to keep this blog and my website up-to-date. I both loathe and love Instagram, but the rest of my social media accounts are hit-and-miss.

It’s also been suggested that I sign up to forums. Sadly, I’ve had a lot of bad experiences when it comes to forums, particularly those associated with Goodreads. One of which ended up with me being labelled as a “Badly Behaving Author” and having numerous blogs and posts dedicated to slating my name – all because one woman that I used to work with, got a bee in her bonnet because I quit my job before the company could go bust and leave me redundant. Plus, I get totally confused and forget what I’ve posted where. My small brain is not capable of living inside internet forums. I was a member of a chat room back in the late 90s / early 00s, and that ended up with me meeting some weird bloke, who I then married and had kids with. (We’re still married. I love him really.)

I also have the issue of connecting with my target audience. Apparently, my target audience is women between the ages of 25 and 50 years old, most of my readers will be married or separated, and have children. Apparently. Which is great – because that’s what I am! I read books, I’m married, I’m in my 30s, and I have children! Except I’ve always struggled to relate to women in my peer group. Even stood in the playground, I tend to talk to the dads more than the mums, or just stand in the corner, with my one friend having a moan about kids, money, and the weather. Introverts with anxiety issues do not socialise.

Network, network, network

As well as being active on Facebook, and being “friends” with hundreds of authors and hundreds of readers, I am a very active member of Yeovil Creative Writers, and have recently looked into joining a group a little bit closer to home. It’s all about networking. And it does work. If I hadn’t gone to the Festival of Romance a few years ago, I would never have met Lucy Felthouse, and in turn wouldn’t have thought about submitting to Tirgearr Publishing or writing for their City Nights series. I also wouldn’t have “met” all the people I have, or gone to the Smut.UK weekends and actually, physically, met some amazing writers. So networking does work, but it doesn’t necessarily result in sales.

Sadly, networking and attending events like Smut.UK, Festival of Romance etc. usually requires money for travel, hotels, food etc. And money is not something I have an abundance of at the moment.

It’s also very difficult to network as a contemporary / erotic romance author when there is still so much taboo around the subject of sex. I’ve personally experienced being disowned, ignored, and looked down on because I’ve mentioned the fact that I enjoy writing graphic sex scenes. I do feel stuck between genres. For erotica events, I am too contemporary. For romance events, I am too erotic. And then there is the fact that I can’t do book signings, because I don’t have any paperbacks to sign. Rock. Hard place.

Marketing, publicity and promoting

There are several companies that I would recommend using to marketing and publicise work: Writer Marketing, GoddessFish, BookBub,  and eBookSoda being a few of them. But, yet again, they cost money. BookBub in particular is quite expensive, although does result in sales. However, for most of these it is usually a good idea to reduce your book’s price to 99c / 99p, and unfortunately books sold that are on promotion do not count towards the 180 quota I need to get them into paperback. So while Seven Dirty Words did outsell the likes of Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series and EL James’ FSOG for a couple of days, it did so while it was on sale, and not at full price.

Facebook groups are obviously free to use, but how many of those actually result in sales? By my experience, not at all. And then there is the risk of being blocked and reported for spamming. (21 days in Facebook jail is not fun when you’re a FB addict!) But you can promote posts with both Facebook and Twitter. I’ve done this and feel that it was a waste of money. I may have reached over 1,000 people according to the statistics, but I didn’t sell a single book during that time.

SEO values and hashtags

There is a trick to getting SEO values and hashtags right, one I have not mastered yet. If I had, then my social media would be getting a lot more hits than they are! I’m a self-confessed technophobe. I know how to use popular areas of the internet, and Microsoft Word. I can’t even use Excel, never mind get to grips with ensuring that my website is attracting the correct traffic!

Money and socialising

That’s what it all comes down to. Having the money to push into titles to promote the hell out of them, and the ability to socialise and talk to actual real-life people. Neither of which I have.

Don’t feel sorry for me though. I’m skint because I have two small people who depend on me to provide them with food and a roof, and because my world revolves around them, I have the bad habit of spoiling them rotten. So the chances are that I will be skint until the day they leave home. (Ten years until university…)

Socialising, as I’ve mentioned before, is a problem for me, because I am not comfortable around people. I have qualifications in animal-related subjects because I can talk to a cat or a dog with ease, whereas people scare the living hell out of me.

So as you can see, I am doing my best as making my writing a business, but struggle on a daily basis, because, well… Yes, it is a business, it really is. I tried working in sales once, and got fired. For being crap at it. And when you get fired by your own husband for being unable to make money, then it’s probably safe to assume that sales is an area to avoid in the future! I am a writer, not a saleswoman.