Sunday, April 3, 2016

Six years in – what I’ve learned about publishing, for what it's worth (Part One)

Negasonic Teenage Warhead, from Deadpool

I can hardly believe that it's been six years since I published my first book, The Years Distilled, and began the awesome (rare) up and (all-too-often) down ride-of-a-lifetime that is being a published hack writer. Thinking about that only brings to mind the voice of Negasonic Teenage Warhead from the recent Deadpool movie.

As I sit here writing this, I have four books available in print and Kindle with a fifth coming out very soon, seven other titles available exclusively as eBooks , and four pieces available in print and digital anthologies – all collections I’m proud to be a part of. I've gotten to know a lot of people that work in and adjacent to publishing who I now count as friends, other writers, editors, proofreaders, designers, managers, reviewers and book bloggers, and I've learned a lot about “indie publishing”, “hybrid publishing”, “traditional publishing”, content layout, graphic design, marketing, communication, and even a little… very little… about generating sales. Sounds like a lot, no? The truth? It’s really almost nothing.

I don't think I have time now (I’m a single dad with a full time job outside of my writing career) to type out the particulars of what I've experienced, or each and every thing I've learned from others (as well as first hand - the hard way) but I feel that I need to put something out there for anyone who is where I was six years ago... looking to get their first title out, and hoping that it doesn’t look like or read like garbage, that it connects with someone... anyone...  somewhere out in the ever contracting world of readers .

If you've already been around the block... so to speak... then you likely know everything I'm about to say...  or you may have a completely different experience and totally disagree with me (who knows, right?)...  but either way I feel I need to type this out... and it is *my blog* after all.

What are the most basic things? Well… 

  1. Write. Do it all the time. Do it when you don’t feel like it. Do it when you think it sucks. Make it a routine. Make it a habit. The quality will go up the more you flex those mental muscles. Someone (maybe Ray Bradbury, maybe not) once said that “Everybody has a million bad words in them, and the sooner we get through that first million, the better.” Maybe not 100 percent accurate, but there is some truth there.
  2. Get an editor. A professional. You will have to pay them. It is more than worth it. Do your homework. Find a quality editor and expect to pay them. Unedited work reads poorly and makes sure that the first impression you make on a reader is as a piss poor armature… even if you have the best plots and characters ever conceived of… or at least since Bill Shakespeare.
  3. Covers matter. Make sure you have a good one. One designed by someone who knows what they are doing. One that people who aren’t you (and your faithful group of supporters, fans, family, and friends) also think looks great.
  4. Give away your work to be read and reviewed. Review s are more precious than gold. Yes, that means even the horrible bad ones. The worst build character and grow a thicker skin. The bad ones can serve to keep you humble and/or show you what you’re doing wrong and what you can learn.

But those are just the highlights… If I had to focus more in depth on just one thing… only one topic to discuss, one direction to point someone in, who was planning to publish it would be this: Social media and internet presence. Know it. Use it. Respect what it can do for you. Trust me.

Rachel Thompson
Get a web page, a blog, a Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and G+… then read everything that Rachel Thompson has to say on webpages, tweets, and status updates. Seriously. Just do it.

I already had a personal Facebook page... as I own a computer, am aware that there is an internet, and I don't live under a rock. I have friends all over the country (because I've lived all over the country) and it seemed like a passable way of keeping in touch with my scattered social group. My personal Facebook page, though, didn't seem like enough to use for a marketing outlet. I saw that other artists, authors, and companies had "professional" pages.
I decided that I needed one, too. As luck would have it, Facebook has a designation for 'Author' when you are making a page... so, off I went... I created a Facebook page for "Dennis Sharpe, the author": 

It's really kinda neat to see who (that isn't already on your friends list on your personal Facebook page) hits the like button, or comments on your updates. I've gotten messages from fans (or so they claim to be) asking me questions and seeming generally interested in my work. I've gotten great feedback as well as gotten to hear from people who genuinely enjoyed my work. If you don't see the benefit of that as a writer then perhaps you should really consider if publishing your work is the right route for you to take (in my humble opinion, anyway).

After all the interaction I was able to generate through my Facebook "Author page", I noticed that several other writers were enjoying success at getting their work read, noticed, devoured, etc. by making a Facebook page for their book, or series of books, and I thought that was ingenious. When I released my first novel (which also happened to be book one of a series) I jumped on that bandwagon as well... I made a Facebook page for my Paranormal/Urban Fantasy series.

I have to be honest here...  While I like that page, it doesn't get quite as much notice, and it hasn't served me quite as well as I would have liked...  but, the interaction that I have gotten out of it has been awesome, and ego boosting... if not a major marketing tool, or help generating interest in my fiction.

On that note, however I have to say that if you intend to publish fiction, and you'd like people to actually read that fiction, you'd be crazy not to get yourself on Twitter. 

Awesome things like this happen on Twitter
My Twitter handle is: @WitlessLackey (an old online handle from years gone by that also happens to be in the name of my blog. Honest... just look at the page this is on.) 

Kelli McCracken, who is amazing help for any writer who's planning to publish (you can find her here:, told me that Twitter was a must. She couldn't have been more right. You can help generate interest for your work... as well as generate interest for the work of other writers you enjoy reading... *and* you get to enjoy a sense of community with other writers doing what you're doing...  like group therapy, moral support, cheerleaders, contemporaries, sounding boards, and people who really "get" where you are and what you are going through. I met some of the best people through Twitter (Mireille Chester, Thomas Amo, Allie Burke, and Rachel Thompson to name a few) as well as occasionally get to digital connect with authors I've been a fan of for years.

Google also has thier hybrid mix of Twitter and Facebook called "G+". I don't know that it will ever be as big, or as great a tool...  or as fun as Facebook and Twitter can be but I'm all about trying new things so I made a G+ account: 

So far...  it's not done a world of good for me... and most everyone I encounter there I have already encountered through another avenue of social media...  but it doesn't hurt, I guess...  it's not time consuming, and it's fairly idiot proof. (It needs to be for me, afterall)

There's also Myspace and Livejournal...  Neither are bad. I have an account on both...  I check them semiannually....  so, yeah. You can use them... but I've not seen them to be all that great as a service (but they are free, as well. )

Pinterest and Instagram are worth your time... but you really should read Rachel's advice, not mine. Seriously. Go there. Read.

There are a few other tools out there at your disposal that I can't see how any writer wouldn't want to employ...  unless they want their writing (or themselves) to remain hidden... they are Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing. Of the three, and I use all three to one degree or another, I would have to say that my favorite is Goodreads. 

All three of these services offers you the ability to create an "author account" where you can list all your books, get ratings and reviews, offer giveaways, gain fans, join groups, post trailers, put up short fiction, and link all your other social media. My Goodreads account is: 

I cannot say enough times how much Goodreads has done for me. They have lists where readers can vote on your book... they have ways for readers to recommend your book to others... they have virtual book clubs and discussion groups that your book can be involved in... Readers can shelve your book by interest or genre, so others can be exposed to you (and not in the illegal kind of "exposed" that sends you to jail, but the good way where people can find and read your book)...


I didn't realize when I started writing this, just how much I had to say... so I'm just going to call this "Part One". If you are interested, I'll be posting a "Part Two" with Screen Shots of my Blog Stats, Facebook Stats, Goodreads Stats, and Sales Stats, as well as comments on my Goodreads list adds in relation to Blog reviews. I'll discuss Amazon Author central as well as other review blogs (like: , , and awesome resources to connect with readers outside of your books like Storycasting and

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