5 Author Challenges I’m Thankful For – AJ Thanksgiving

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Hey guys! I’m always telling you about new writing tips, new authors, my own work… but today I’d like to get into the Thanksgiving spirit and let you know five writerly things that I’m thankful for this year.

(1) Balancing Writing and Life

This took me a year to master. Balancing writing with the rest of life is a huge challenge. Life still needs to happen. The day job, family, and ‘adulting’ all need to fit on the same page that is your life and somehow squeeze writing in there too. It was tough at first, but this year I have found a healthy balance.

(2) The End of the “Almost There” Stage

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with a professional editor about my work. I told her my struggles with landing a pro-sale for my short stories. I’ve made semi-pro sales, and often received positive feedback from pro-magazines, but hadn’t been able to cross that threshold. When she heard this, and read my work, she informed me that I was at the end of the “almost there” stage that all writers go through. There’s an invisible line between the standard writer and a pro writer, and all of us will go through it. The difference between an amateur and a master is that the master is an amateur who never gave up.

Shortly after she told me this, my story won an honorable mention for the Writers of the Future Contest. I do believe that’s the definition of “almost there!”

(3) Author Branding

Not only has my writing hit that “almost there” stage, but my sales have as well.

To give you a visual, here’s a look at the typical startup curve for a business.

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Source: https://genterpriser.wordpress.com/

This graph can easily apply to the experience that one goes through as a published writer. You are essentially building your own business, which is “you” as an author. You have to sell your product, be it to an agent, editor, or to readers via self-publishing, and you are an unknown in the market. You have to go through those same steps of a start-up business to build a foundation.

I have been studying writing for six years, but I’ve been seriously writing for three, and published for one. My publication anniversary for my first fantasy novel will be in a few days on November 30!

At this point, my second novel is coming out in December and I’ve started to receive what we call “full requests” from agents on a novel that I’ve written on the side intended for traditional publication. My first novel, which is now self-published, received full requests, but only from small publishers. Now, I’ve overcome the barrier of getting an agent invested into my work with a second novel written in a different world. I’ve discovered that the benefit of starting over is that I am able to write a more marketable story, given my experiences, and have a better chance at finding an agent who will fall in love.

Looking back at my first novel, I’m glad I self-published. Going through  the decision to drop the small press that was interested in my work was tough. Editors requested a lot of changes and complained that the premise was too unique. I had to make the decision to either change the premise beyond recognition, or take the reins myself.

Editors and agents were right. It is a huge challenge to market a book that doesn’t fit neatly into a known niche. The Celestial Downfall Trilogy is so unique that readers often don’t know what to expect when getting into it. I typically see reviews along the lines of “This isn’t what I expected at all, but I was happily surprised.”

With the second in the trilogy officially complete and its various formats set to be on sale by New Years, I’ve seen a fan base start to form. The Celestial Downfall Trilogy is entering into the upswing of the curve of success and I am so proud to see how it’s growing!

(4) Learning New Skills

When I decided to tackle self-publishing, I knew I was getting into something that was way bigger than just writing a book. By self-publishing, you take on all the aspects of creating a book. These are the following skills I had to master:

  1. Developmental Editing: fixing structural issues with the plot
  2. Formatting: I’ve come a long way in learning how to properly format a book and its various options. What once took me days now only takes me a few hours.
  3. Cover Art: this was a huge learning curve, involving Adobe Photoshop, understanding royalty-free fonts, how to choose and manipulate stock photos, and essentially learning how to become an artist.
  4. Audiobooks: I learned how to narrate, produce, and master audiobooks. This was huge and an absolute blast. I had the choice to hire someone for this portion, but I wanted to tackle the challenge of learning how to do it myself. My first audiobook passed Audible’s quality standards on the first try, but reviews have complained my delivery was too flat. I didn’t expect to nail it on the first book, and I do admit I tried to keep from overacting so as not to distract from the story. But due to the feedback, I’ve had more fun with the second book and have put more acting into the narration. I also invested in the same software used on Game of Thrones to cut down my mastering audio time. It was expensive, as in it cost just as much as the equipment itself, but has saved me over 30 hours of work refining the audio! Definitely worth it.
  5. Publicity: Learning how to do a publicist’s job was much tougher than I’d imagined. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but after a year of struggling, I’ve found my stride. I’ve learned how to collaborate with other authors and build a mailing list, as well as which promotions work best. It’s easy to spend hundreds fast when not sure what you’re doing, so it’s important to get marketing right!

All of these things were brutal to learn and I’m so glad I’m past the first hump of learning how to do these things from scratch. Now I can look forward to refining the skills I’ve gained, which isn’t as nearly as painful!

(5) Making Lasting Friends

I’ve picked up a few writing friends along the way, some who have become lasting relationships. I’ve learned from them, get to share my ups and downs, and all-in-all get to enjoy life as a writer without the stipulation of being alone. My husband may be supportive, but only my writer friends will know what it really means when I tell them “A Big 5 agent asked for a full of my manuscript!”

The writing community is tight-knit and caring, if one is brave enough to delve into it. I hope to make more connections in the coming years and build that important foundation that supportive friends can bring!

Aside from writing, I’m thankful for so many things in my life, namely faith, family, and having the luxury to reach for my dreams. My family has recently endured cancer, and it took a lot of faith to get through that. But now the cancer is gone and we can look forward to 2018 with joy and peace. I haven’t had this kind of peace in a long time, if ever, and I wonder if that is just what comes when one grows older. I hope you all find peace as we approach yet another Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Holiday season!

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