You Don’t Need Money to Become a Published Author

            I have been in this industry for a decade. I have seen every type of scam, scheme, and actual honest help. There are scores of people out there ready to take your money so you can achieve your dreams. (Trust me. I have poetry about it written in glitter pens from a decade ago.) So let’s talk about what you think you need and what you actually need.

Scam: “Give me $1,000 and I’ll give you a book.” and sometimes they promise fame and fortune too. These people do a really crappy job doing exactly what you could accomplish all by yourself but often give you an inferior product. It used to be a guy with a printing press in their basement, now I’m sure it’s more of a guy who knows how Lulu dot com works. It’s basically vanity publishing, and often, because of that, your books won’t even be available on Amazon. Sometimes they just take your money and run. Don’t give them money.
(I’ll let you guys know of a few of the “publishing houses” that have approached me climb into my inbox. Tehe!)

Scheme: I have seen smallish companies that offer to do things like take over the production of your book from start to finish. Which, I mean, if you wanna throw $1,000 at someone to do that for you go for it! Just do your homework and make sure they’ll actually do the job right. They’re usually upfront with their practices. “We’ll do all the work it takes to get your book self-published on Amazon. Editing, cover art, listing it,” etc. They have different tears of help they can give. They’re not necessarily bad. They just do things you could easily do yourself.

Actual honest help: Okay. This is what I do. It’s still not ideal, but it’s what’s working for me. Over the years I have accumulated a team of freelancers to do everything I can’t do well myself. Poor Richard does my cover art, and sometimes gets memes about how crazy I drive him made about him, even though he assures me I’m not that bad; Caren Speckner is an awesome human who edits my stuff so I don’t look like an idiot in public while allowing me to keep my Goshen County accent. (Most people cry “That’s not grammatically correct!” but that’s how I talk…) Cierra does my logos in that traditional American tattoo art I’m so fond of and allows me to pay her in bones and bottles, because I’m a cowgirl who likes booze. In Tales from the Gishlan Wood she’ll be doing the flags.
If you choose this rout Pay. Your. People. That street runs both ways and I’ve seen authors walk off with 35+ hours of work without paying their freelancers. Not a “I’ll pay you $5 a month until it’s done.” just poof! Not cool.
The reason I say this is not ideal is because these people’s services are something a traditional publisher should be paying for. The reason they should be paying for them is because traditional publishers know more about making books than you or I. At least they’re supposed to. Poor Richard’s cover art might not fit current marketing trends! Accent or no, it’s still grammatically incorrect. And traditional American tattoo art? Not in my good Christian suburbs. The price you pay for a good traditional publisher is less creative control. But. I am confident that if I got a wild hair and started self-publishing my books, say, next week, it’d be the best quality product I could offer the public. Perhaps, one day, I will find a traditional publisher that shares my vision.

            Like many things in life, you don’t need money but it sure as Heck makes things run smoother. Jeeze. My biggest expense when I published War and Chess was buying copies to resell. I’d buy them 50 at a time, so that costed about $300.  I remember I would save my money $20 bill by $20 bill at a time in a ceramic pig I made in middle school that sat in the corner of my parent’s house. (Obviously, I have no money hidden there now.) It was a big investment but I made the money back by selling copies at book signings. Those were some treasured and adventurous times.

            Not having money doesn’t mean you don’t have to work. It means you have to work twice as hard to accomplish the same thing. You can publish a book without spending a dime (especially if you self-publish on Amazon). If you’re sleeping on your own career because “YoU cAn’T aFfOrD iT.” I’m here to tell you it’s bullsh*t. You can do anything you set your mind to.

NaNoWriMo Is Weird

            NaNoWriMo is weird. You’re just expected to write 50,000 words in 30 days!? Do you have a death wish? Don’t get me wrong, the whole non-profit organization is great. I love it! In my own way I participate every year! But the holiday, NaNoWriMo, concerns me.

            Have I ever told you the story of my music career? I have? Well here’s the story again: Once upon a time there was an operatic soprano who played trumpet. If you’ve met sopranos, and you’ve met trumpet players individually, you would know that a trumpeting soprano is the human version of glitter. Really arrogant glitter.

            This little trumpet playing soprano left home at 18 and played on street corners for tips. She traveled all around the continent (yes, Canadian and Mexico too) dooting for dimes, moved into an apartment, then only played a mute because it was too loud, then stopped playing all together after a while. She stopped singing in choirs in favor of getting a job *Snorts in global pandemic*

            Why did she stop making music? She got burnt out.

            I loved music. It was everything to me. But one day, after a while, I just stopped! My stereo is still more important to me than my TV, I have a display of instruments in my house (pretty, pretty please don’t rob me), and I sing to myself but other than that… I’d like to think that writing was more of everything to me but in all honesty, I got burnt out.

            DON’T GET BURNT OUT.

            I cannot stress it enough. Do. Not. Get. Burnt. Out.

            You know what happens when I sit around making jewelry for my Etsy store until my fingers hurt? I don’t want to look at the pretty things I just made, I don’t want to think about jewelry, I don’t want to wear jewelry. I want it waaaaaaay the heck over there! Thankfully, I keep going back to it, but only when writing is too much.

            Do not use NaNoWriMo to hurt yourself. I know we all want the good grade but it won’t help you in the long run if you write for thirty days, wind up hating it, and then never touch a keyboard, a typewriter, or pen again. If you’re having fun then by all means keep going! If you’re loving the extra accountability, then keep going! If you’re just having a good time himming and hawing, and actually having someone listen to you talk about your book, keep going! But if you’re going to use NaNoWriMo and all its weirdness to hurt yourself throttle back. When you get obsessed that’s how you know it’s time to take a break.

            NaNoWriMo is weird and it is not kind to those of us who want to be the very best that no one ever was. We put too much pressure on ourselves and it’s not a good time. NaNoWriMo is weird, here’s your permission not to break your neck and make yourself hate writing.

If you want to see me epically fail at my NaNo goals you can find me on their website. I’m nelehjr. Next month’s blog post will be about gift giving! How to Donate Your Book to a Library! Of course, if you want me to cover something I haven’t yet, smash the contact button, or drop me a comment.

Find What Motivates You

            Oh jeeze. Here we go… In October of 2019 I made a bet with my best friend. Every time we have dinner together we go back and forth about the novels we’re writing. More than once I’ve finally broken through writers block by talking my entire story through with her. But this woman… This woman whom I love like I love the sun, can never seem to finish writing one of her books.

            She constantly makes jokes about it too! So I only feel slightly horrible for throwing out the “I love her but…” again. (Das toxic. Don’t talk about your friends like dat.) Well, this gorgeous, dear, beloved friend o’ mine who happens to be a sun goddess, kept telling me about this fantasy novel she was working on. It involved the female heir of ancestral magic, born to common wealth, who needed to reopen a one hundred year old city she had no idea existed, and an evil king who wanted all that magic and power for himself. It was epic.

            So I badgered her about it. “Can I read it?”

            “No! It’s more idea than book right now.”

            “Make it for me.”

            “I’m busy!”

            “Gib me buk!

            And she finally relented when we struck our bet. We bet on her drive. If she could finish writing the first draft of this book before October 31st at midnight she could give the raunchiest, nastiest, sexiest, speech at my wedding. The kind that would make a sailor blush. And I would not be allowed to ring her neck.

            For the entire month of October we were like Sarah and Jareth from Labyrinth. Every day, “How’s my book coming along?”

            “Shut up you, @#$%! %^&*!

            “You know, I win either way. I either get to read the book or my mother never has to know what I’m into.”

            “Oh. She’ll know. Everyone at your wedding will know.”

            It got especially bad on Halloween. Every time I got a break at work I was all “In 9 hours and 23 minutes, you’ll be mine!”

            I just so happened to be up at midnight. So I texted her to gloat. “I win. No ratchet speech for you!”

            And my golden ray of sunshine says to me  “*Yawn* Oh, our bet? I finished writing three hours ago.” then promptly emailed me a full length manuscript to prove she wasn’t lying. I quickly sped through 150+ pages of awesome to make sure there wasn’t filler pages of “ffffffffffff” or quotes from medieval monks like “By God, it’s finished. Get me a drink.” It was 150 pages of story.

            I have never been so happy to lose a bet in all my life.

            I was so excited I even made a vague Instagram post celebrating her! She did it! And now, unfortunately, I am going to show you all what a real blushing bride looks like on her wedding date. Now all’s that’s left is to find a good man with strong teeth and a compatible kidney.

            What I’m telling you you need to do is find what motivates you. (Aw look. Here’s where the title makes sense!) Set your eyes on a goal! Maybe you wanna get interviewed by Oprah! Maybe you want to get the bloody book out of your head because it’s just taking up too much space! Maybe you want to make a raunchy speech at your best friend’s wedding! I don’t know your life! Just set your eyes on the goal and go for it, then give yourself a reward if and when you get there. You know what I get for finishing this blog post? A piece of pie. I’m feelin’ rhubarb.

            There is nothing wrong with setting rewards for yourself. Sticker from the sticker box? Interview with Oprah? Dinner out? (I’m told you shouldn’t use food to reward yourself but I’m already dummy thicc. It’s too late for me.) That shirt you’ve been eyeballing from The Cute Store downtown? Motivate yourself! Sometimes the achievement of the goal itself just isn’t enough. Sometimes you need to promise yourself a reward for getting there. Now if you’ll excuse me, that pie and I have a pressing appointment…

Join me next month for Boo! It’s the Fear of Failure. As always, if I haven’t covered something you need drop me a line! There’s a “Contact” tab on the left hand of your screen.