Summer nights.

I have to be honest, getting into a summer writing routine has been harder than I thought. In the weeks leading up to the last day of school, I’d convinced myself that I’d get up early and write for hours before anyone else was up–no! I’d stay up late. That’s what I’d do: stay up as late as I wanted, then sleep in every morning. But then the last day of school came…and so did the tears. I took a new position next fall, teaching English at a different school than the one I’ve been at for the past three years. I think I’m ready for the new adventure and the challenge, but it was still really hard (I mean ridiculously hard) to say good-bye to my school, my friends there, and the young people who’ve filled my days for the past few years. So I needed a couple of days to recover from the school year and its ending, and I took them.

My next challenge was getting my co-writer on board. For all of the days during the school year that she wanted to cram some writing time into our already-full days, now that we have hour upon lazy hour to fill with creativity, all she wants to do is watch nonsense (I’m sorry, I meant “top-notch cinematography and drama”) like Teen Beach Movie 2. *eyeroll* With our goal of getting Book 2 out by the end of summer, we broke out our calendar and worked backwards from there: how long to get it formatted? One week. How long to have it in our hands with suggested edits and changes? A couple of weeks. How long can we expect our beta readers to spend reading and marking up our draft? Gotta give ’em a couple of weeks, at least. So when do we need a complete first draft to work with? By July 17th!!! And we’ve got about 11,000 words done right now. So…that’s a lot of writing. But we’ll get there. I know we will. It just takes a little time to settle into summer, to fully absorb the enormity of days on end with no schedule and no commitments. And then to get bored enough to crave routine.

In the meantime, I’ve gone hog-wild with my own story/series. I wrote a romance about six or seven years ago that I’ve always really loved (well, it was the characters and the setting that I loved, not the story necessarily), so I’ve been working for quite a while now at dismantling that and bringing the parts that I love to life in a way that works for me. Right now I’ve got that mapped out as a five-book series and I’m well into the first book, but as you can see above, my writing goals are sometimes a little lofty, so…

Right now we’re trying to find our groove. We’ve been sitting out on our deck together at night, letting the moon come out as we talk strategy for Book 2, and answering questions from the awesome bloggers we’ve met so far who have agreed to feature us and our writing adventure on their blogs. All in all, I think this is going to be a pretty awesome summer.

A minnow in an ocean of whales.

And now the flatline begins. We had a solid first few days after publishing our book, and every time we looked at our sales on Amazon we high-fived each other with excitement. But now…we’re floating out there in the murky world of ebooks, tangled in the flotsam and jetsam of this deep sea (about a million new fish are born into this ocean each year). With luck, we’ll get caught in the net of a bottom trawler and find ourselves on the menu somewhere fancy. But the truth is, this is where the real work begins–the swimming upstream, so to speak.

I had a wonderful phone conversation with Shayla of Curiouser Editing, and she talked a lot about how to connect with readers. It was invigorating to get the perspective of someone with more (and different) experience, and we came to some really good conclusions. Essentially every author has a brand that they’re promoting, and I really think that ours is clean, contemporary fiction for all ages. To take that a step further, it’s family-centered fiction, written by a mother and daughter. If I were to put that into a soundbite, it would look more like: Clean, Contemporary Family Fiction. In fact, the series I’m working on by myself falls into that category as well, so I think I’ve sort of naturally found my niche without really trying. Shayla’s ideas for how to promote our work and find people who are looking for what we have to offer were really insightful, and she offers tons of services to help authors. If you’re looking for editing, guidance, marketing, or connections with other publishing professionals, check her out!

As for what’s next…we need reviews. Reviews equal visibility and an audience, and the algorithms on Amazon are such that the more reviews you have, the more your book will be visible by human browsers. Our first two reviews were from friends and family, but we really need to beef that up. Unbeknownst to me, there is a world of willing book reviewers out there who are happy to read and give feedback on books in their preferred genres, and I stumbled into a website (here) where you can read what looks like personal ads, but what are really potential reviewers offering their free services. I found six or seven people who are willing to read Iris and give us an honest review, so now we just wait (with our fingers crossed that they’re good!) for those to be posted.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for Clean, Contemporary Family Fiction, feel free to check out Iris and let us know what you think. I have a coupon through Smashwords (that link takes you right to our book) that will allow you to download it for free through July 31. Just put the book in your cart, and at checkout, use this code: KY82R

If you’d be willing to read it and leave us a review on Smashwords, Amazon, or Goodreads, we’d be pleased as punch!

WE DID IT!

We’re feeling pretty happy in this moment, because Iris is published and out in the world! It took us a full year from sitting down to type the first words, to the final publication on Amazon and Smashwords, but it’s finally done–we’re published authors! We’re well into the first draft of our 2nd manuscript, and the cover for that one is already finalized, but we’d love it if you joined us here at the beginning of our journey and read Iris. It’s currently $2.99 and available for download on Amazon here and on Smashwords here. It’s being distributed through Smashwords to all of the other non-Amazon vendors, so very soon it should also be available on iBooks and through Barnes & Noble and Kobo as well.

If you are kind enough to download it, then thank you–your support means the world to us! If you would also consider leaving us a glowing review (no pressure!) then we’d love you to eternity and back for that. I kind of feel like the real work begins now: marketing, promoting, and trying to make this book visible feels like a bigger mountain to climb than just writing it! But we’re up for the challenge–and we’re excited to keep writing!

When to bring in the pros. 

When I dove into the world of indie publishing, I assumed it would be a quick and easy process of figuring out how to format, publish, and do a little marketing and promotion. I had no idea the level of involvement it would require and the amount of information out there to digest in order to put out a product that has any hope of finding an audience. That said, it’s been a fun challenge to try and make heads or tails of converting documents, understanding Amazon algorithms, and to dip my toe in the waters of blogging and networking with other indie authors. But now that our first book is complete and we’ve decided what our budget is for the project, it’s time to turn to the professionals for help.

Since this might ultimately be nothing more than a vanity project, I didn’t want to pour thousands of dollars into this one book, but I do see the importance of putting out the best work that you possibly can. Cover art is hugely important for attracting readers; it’s your first selling point, aside from the blurb (which should read like the back cover of a book.) So I searched around for a fabulous cover artist and found the wonderful and talented Natasha Snow. She took our ideas and molded them into something that we’re really happy with, and we’re thrilled to be able to share the cover for our first novel, Iris. I know for a fact that I couldn’t have put together something that looked even remotely professional, so for me, this one was a no-brainer. If you aren’t a graphic artist yourself, definitely hire a cover artist.

I would have loved to have the money to sink into a developmental editor, a copy editor, or a proof reader, but that’s not in our budget at this time. Instead, we went with a professional formatter to turn our book into something that will translate well and look good across all of the different types of e-readers. This was important to me, because as a reader, I can forgive a typo here and there (so long as it’s not egregious) but when a book has crappy formatting, it turns me off completely. I tried my hand at it by using Calibre to see how hard it would be, and while it wasn’t rocket science, I do think there’s an art to it and that it requires someone who knows a more about code than I do. (And also I couldn’t get my table of contents set up right, which made me want to break stuff. So there’s that, too.)

At this point, we should have our final document back from the formatter next week, and I’ll upload it to all of the various distributors. It’s a really exciting time for us as indie authors, and for me it’s been an amazing exercise in patience, trial-and-error, and just finding and accepting my limitations. I absolutely cannot wait to see our book available for sale, and you’d better believe that we’ll let you know as soon as it’s out there!