It’s Not Easy Just Because I Did It

            I don’t know how not to make this statement sound not bitchy, but here it is: Publishing a book a isn’t easy. And it’s not easy just because someone like me actually did it. It was years of aggravating hard work. It was working in secret because I was a teenager, and I already had to play trumpet until my lips bled. Why would I want something else I loved gutted for scholarship money? It was no one taking me seriously because I was a kid. It was one person taking me seriously even though I was a kid. It was me finishing my first novella in a Harry Potter journal I had owned since my 9th birthday party. It was not having money to hire an editor, and agreeing to cat-sit for a summer in exchange. It was going to the public library and asking for a directory of publishers. It was the only resources being online, and my family not having a reliable computer, or internet connection. It was me, coming home from school, searching for publishers, on the computer we only had sometimes. It was me, twisting my mother’s arm into reading it, even though reading is her least favorite hobby. (Momma loves me!) It was me, editing my book off of an Ipod touch when I lived in a car, and writing changes down in a notebook. It was me spending time in the library in Key Largo, maybe Key West, while the rain poured down, and I punched in edits from my notes, on to the public computer, using the flash drive I keep in my purse. It was going through every page of that directory of publishers, going to give up when I got to the Z page, wanting to stop at S, and getting a call back from the I page. It was me, probably being cruel and obsessive while trying to publish the thing… In short, I was a diva.

            It was my first book signing, in the library that I went to story time in as a kid. It was coming up with an off-the-cuff presentation for the first time. It was living in my parent’s basement, writing, trying to find a job, writing, job hunting, writing, developing a drinking problem, finishing a second book, getting a job, drinking, writing, working, drinking, writing, working, drinking, writing, working, drinking, writing, working, drinking, writing, working, drinking, writing, working. It was waking up with pages glued to my face from drool and sweat. It was doing that until I was sick of it. It was getting sober, because I couldn’t remember writing the first half of book three. It was falling in love with a community. Working, writing, working, writing, working, writing, working, writing, working, writing. It was getting my heart broken over years of silence when two different publishers accepted book two, but never offered me a contract, and never published it, on two different occasions. It was still writing even though I was worried my career would be over with only one book to show for it. It was working full time, and writing in my car over lunch. It was finishing book three, and buying a portable keyboard so I could type it up, from the handwritten copy, over lunch. It was valuing a laptop from 2015 just as much as a limb. Working, writing, working, writing, fired. Don’t drink. Writing, writing, writing, pandemic. It was being so angry at the world an entire book fell out of my head and on to Kindle Direct Publishing. It was my cover artist getting sick, and my editor going back to law school. It was Jenaniper hearing me complain and coming to my rescue. It was publishing a second book, just not the one I expected. It was my friend who started his own publishing house approaching me again, and asking if, I’d consider trusting him, and his crew with my books. It was my dear old friend, off screen, coming back into my life, and convincing me to work with this publisher, because he quit his job to go to work for his friend’s business and he had been much happier for it. It was me, trusting my friends. It was my cover artist pushing himself through the darkest places to finish the artwork for me. It was sitting on the trunk of my car, with a cigar, reading proofs, in the dark, on a late-autumn night. It was so many problems delaying us, that the release date hit on a horrible traumaversery. It was me curled in fetal position on the shower floor. It was glancing at my phone to see Drakarium Publishing holding our collective breaths while distributor’s bots read over our work to make sure it was good enough to sell. It was feeling too numb to celebrate with the crew. It was three books. So far.

And it was not easy.

            Just because a broke, white, vaguely female, kid from Cow-Town can do it, doesn’t make it easy.

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Writing Is Just Show Biz For Shy People

The whole quote from Lee Childs goes “Writing is just show biz for shy people. That’s how I see it.” My man’s is right! Especially when it comes to publicity. Publicity is more like show biz than any other part of writing.

            For those of you who don’t know, I have a background in music I never shut up about. (Trumpet playing sopranos rarely do.) In recent years I’ve pulled back from it, severely. I talk about the why in other posts. Unimportant! But I do find it helpful to think of writing, like I do performing. In many ways, they are similar.

            First of all, musicians will rehearse, and rehearse, and rehearse, until they can perform in their sleep. I for one associate my trumpet with the taste of blood. That is akin to editing. You, as a writer, need to read your piece over, and over again until it is just so. It also helps to get several other people involved before you show your work to a broader audience. See where I’m going with this? *Wink, wink* *Nudge, nudge* Hire an editor!!! Let your friends beta read! Take criticism! It helps to hear “Helen, you’re a bit bright on the high notes, and you need to open the back of your jaw a little wider.”

            Another immortal quote: “If you practice like a fish, you wrestle like a fish.” That was from my 4th grade teacher, Mr. E, and it still rings in my head, even though I can’t remember what E stood for. He was a coach, and he meant “If you let people toss you around the mat like you’re a dead fish in practice, you’re going to get tossed around like a dead fish at tournaments.” I distinctly remember him applying that to our school work. So, the lesson here is: Give practices your all. I like to do silly little writing prompts when I haven’t been writing. I set a timer for five minutes and go ham. I’m bougie, so mine come from a nice book an elder in my community gave to me, to encourage me to keep writing, when I was just a wee lass. Having only five minutes to write with a prompt will also encourage you to quit editing while writing.

            Okay, seriously. Did ya’ll see me do that Wyoming Arts Council Funded Tour? Because I will not be doing it again. (Just kidding. I would love the opportunity, but I was using that as an expression.) Look, I need you to understand: I am so shy when I go to practice for praise team at church, I can barely ask which stand I can use. There’s no hiding on stage though. Even when you’re one of six people. There is no hiding when you’re trying to do publicity either! I’d say using the internet for advertising is probably one of my strong points as a published author, but with the time I took off work to do my tour, I learned that most of the people I interact with daily had no idea I wrote. In my defense, at what point in conversation would it have been appropriate to bring it up? *Cue nervous chuckle* Anyway, I also treat book signings like they’re performances. I get dressed up, I pull on a not-steal toed pair of boots, I stop thinking like an introvert and start thinking like a showman. I’ve got cool stuff to show you! The book signings where I also do presentations are particularly like that. I think of it like giving a tour (I grew up in a historic town. I can do tours!), but instead of a real place, I’m showing you Gishlan. Razzle dazzle, baby! (If you’d like to learn more about me and my touring check out chapter 15 of my Kindle Vella series.)

            If you want [what little] I have, you have to be willing to hustle. Travel, put your name out there, work with people, keep your finger to the pulse, put your work out there, make yourself available, join some clubs, network, be an active member of your community, and don’t forget your sparkle.

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