Monday, July 4, 2011

Derrolyn's Adventures in Book Writing

How To Be An Indie Author In Five Easy Steps

Happy fourth of July, America! What better way to celebrate gaining one’s independence than to blather on about how I became an independent, or, “Indie” author.

I’m not sure what possessed me to start writing. Like many clever young girls, I was an avid reader, taking in all the classic children’s literature, devouring every dog and horse story in the library, moving on to mysteries and horror.

Fortunately or not, by around sixth grade I found my way into the adult section. I started reading books by Jacqueline Susanne, Judith Kranz, and of course, that great classic of children’s literature, Gore Vidal’s “Myra Breckenridge”. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place, but there just didn’t seem to be a “Young Adult” genre around, unless you counted something like everyone’s favorite, “Go Ask Alice”.

So, fueled by issues with authority, along with some of the nifty ideas taken from my latest readings, I put down the books and went out into the world. I drifted around for a while, working as a waitress, model, cardroom chip girl and bartender. Dealing with the unwashed masses has got to be one of the best training grounds for a writer– there are lots of characters out there! I finally dropped back into school as an art major and married a great guy.

What brought me back to reading, and eventually writing, was having kids and vetting their books. I truly loved the Harry Potter series, and I’m not afraid to admit it! I began to read all kinds of YA fiction, finally getting around to “Twilight”. I watched as girls and women of all ages basically went nuts for a “clean” romance in which the high school kids didn’t curse, do drugs or have pre-marital sex. Not very realistic, IMHO, but author Stephanie Meyers did a bang-up job creating sexual tension. I enjoyed the books, although I did find the heroine a bit whiny, and could have done without some of the creepier stalkerish aspects of the story…

I can do this, I thought… maybe even better. BOY, WAS I NAIVE.

For the first ten years of my marriage we lived by the sea, and I decided to set my story in the seaside town of Aptos. I drew the characters and dialogue from people I’d known, or imagined I knew, and was surprised when they started to take on a life of their own. I found that I truly enjoyed writing, and seriously wondered what took me so long to discover it!

I wrote, wrote and re-wrote, falling in love with my story. I woke up in the middle of the night to jump onto my laptop, and raced dripping out of the shower, frantic to jot down a great dramatic twist or a fun line of dialogue. I edited and edited, fixing mistakes, excising awkward sentences, filling in glaring plot holes. When I closed my eyes, afterimages of the keyboard danced behind my eyelids, and my family started to question my sanity.

It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done, but eventually, I had myself a book.

My sister in-law helped edit, and a close friend liked it; my mother, aunt and teenage daughters were encouraging. I was finally ready to get it published, confidant that the dozen or so literary agents I sent it to would be fighting over the right to sell my book. Crickets. I wrote and re-wrote my query letter, convinced that once they gave it a chance they’d be bowled over by my brilliance. Finally, one agent requested a partial, and… nothing. I obsessively re-wrote the first chapter, but the rejection letters started to pile up.

My visionary husband had been telling me to self-publish all along, but I insisted I needed to go through the gatekeepers to be taken “seriously”. Still, I started right in on the second book in the series, refusing to let the sting of rejection suck all the fun out of writing for me. The second book came pouring out even faster, and I believe, better.

I started paying more attention to the e-reader revolution, and began to investigate. Amazon Smashwords, and Barnes &Noble were selling independently published e-books, so I worked up some cover art and uploaded them, pricing them low in the hopes they’d take off. I sat back, waiting for the sales to go crazy. And then… a little. Not much, but slightly gratifying that a few total strangers would fork over a buck or two to read my little stories.

The only problem was that my books were getting lost; swamped in an ever-expanding sea of young adult titles.

When sales didn’t immediately skyrocket I started to have doubts about them. I knew that my books were at least as good as a lot of published works, and no doubt better than some. Could I be delusional? I couldn’t help but wonder if I was like one of those awful tone-deaf singers auditioning for American Idol that thought they sounded really, really, good. Were my friends and family simply blowing smoke, or was I onto something?

Then I discovered the book reviewer blogosphere, something I never paid much mind to before. I put together a cover letter and approached a small group of YA book bloggers. The results have been fantastic beyond my wildest dreams! I’ve gotten all sorts of positive feedback and some terrific insight as to how readers perceive my characters. Sales are picking up, and my web-presence is increasing exponentially.
I’ve never been one for social media, not being particularly keen on having my past come back to haunt me. Despite having teenagers that live on it, I believe that I may be the last person on earth not on Facebook. Can I achieve success being the hermetic J.D.Salinger of teen romantic fiction? Probably not, but I’ll keep thinking on it. Twitter? Yikes!

I’m not done brainstorming the marketing yet, but I feel vindicated. I would have signed anything to get published, but this way I own all the rights for all eternity. I have forever to develop an audience for my books, and most importantly, I feel my writing is improving as I go. I’m working on the third installment of my “Marina’s Tales” series, (due out August 2011) and I have a fourth book outlined. My advice to anyone who wants to write a book? GO FOR IT! As my dad once said, life is short, and you’re gonna be dead a long, looong time!

My books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Diesel, etc.

If you want to know more, click on the links to check them out on Goodreads.

Happy reading! Derrolyn

Between The Land And The Sea                                  
The Moon And The Tide


Mary Anne Graham said...

I also trudged along the Road to Publication. I'm happy today to be an indie author on a different road today, one Jane Friedman calls the road to discoverability - I blogged about that yesterday.

I think it's important that people write mostly because writing is what they love. If there's something else, anything else they'd rather do, then they should do that.

I hope readers enjoy my over-the-top tales of love, but I'd write them even if the indie revolution had never taken place. I'd write them even if they never got published.

I hope to write full time one day but even if I don't, I'll still be at a keyboard every spare minute. Write because you love to write first and then anything else is gravy.

Derrolyn said...

Hi Mary Anne,

Amen! I read your blog posting about discoverability- very insightful. It can be both good and bad that indie authors must also become masters of self-promotion, but in the end, it's really all about the story!


Aurian said...

Nice blog Derrolyn, and how good of you to just keep on writing. I'm also not on Facebook and Twitter, it just takes to much time to just keep up with the blogs I follow, and to read books!

I did become a member of Twitter, because Jayne Ann Krentz promoted her latest book by writing a tidbid a day, which was also a very short story, on Twitter. I just wanted to read it.

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