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Monday, May 19, 2014

How I Found The Write Path, A Letter to Novice Me

CARRIE BUTLER and PK HREZO

When Carrie posted this, I was really thinking, "I'm not going to be able to write anything after finishing the A to Z Challenge, but it came easily. I guess it was meant to be. And this seemed like a great way to share something of my story about how I began and maybe help newer writers. 

So, here's my older self writing a note to my newer self. Be sure to go to some others who are doing this. Here's the link to the SIGN UP PAGE. It should be interesting to read their notes

Dear Lee (the one with fewer wrinkles),

Remember the day you signed your first contract? How could you forget it, right? You’d just stepped across a line you didn’t think you ever would. You were on your way to being an author who published fiction. In the next few months you worked hard, you met your line edit deadlines, and then the book came out. 


Grafixer, Morguefiles

Wait. 

Not exactly.

Remember, you’d arranged for a book signing at a major bookstore, but no books showed up. Not until you harangued the publisher and had them ship ten special delivery. Books came. That afternoon. Very close call.

The following year you signed another contract for a new book. Yay! Crossed another line, didn’t you? You weren’t going to be a one book author of fiction. All smiles, you flew to Florida to present a paper at the NCTE and to sign your new book at your publisher’s booth. Only. . .guess what?  No new books arrived, so you signed your first one. 

Did you notice a pattern? Of course, you did, but you were writing. You were happy. Well, you were until the publisher announced they were shutting down their young adult imprint. Goodbye. Nice knowing you. 


Anitapepper, Morguefiles


And then you had the joy of wresting your rights back. That only took a few months of nastiness, but you did it, and you put your stories out as ebooks, which the publisher had refused to do. You must still be scratching your head about that one. 

Looking back, those were rough days, but here’s what you learned: you can write well enough to interest people in reading your stories, with all of the changes in publishing, you have other options as an author, and you look for and take advantage of them. Most of all, you learned not to depend on publishers to get the word out about your books. You should expect some help, but a lot of marketing is up to you.

That last lesson led you to learning more than you ever thought possible about marketing. You were a nincompoop at blogging, but you started doing it anyway. You didn't know how to use any of the social media very well. Facebook was a mystery, but you managed to understand its strangeness and began using it as part of your marketing plan. Twitter became a great resource to put out word about your blog, your books, you. I see you pop up on LinkedIn and goodreads, too. And you’ve managed to talk your books onto some bookstore shelves. You’re doing workshops and book presentation every year at bookstores, libraries and schools. So I’d say it’s a good thing you learned a bit about marketing, even if you did it a tad late.

I know you didn’t expect to have your publisher close its doors, but while that was a terrible blow, you found something out about the publishing industry that’s darned positive. Authors are the best support you’ll ever find. When you network with them, they are the first to say, “How can I help you?” They’ll blog about your books. They’ll buy and read and review them. They understand what this industry is about, and they appreciate authors who don’t give up and who offer support in return.

If you could change something about this writing journey, my bet is you’d change your preparation for the business side things. Knowing more about marketing ahead of publication would have served you well. Am I right? Having a network of people willing to give you a shout out, would have helped a lot. Of course, if you had known some of the basic writer lingo you wouldn’t have had to scramble to catch up with your more savvy writer friends. ARC? Trim Size? Galleys? You were a novice. So glad you’re not one of those anymore.


All my best, Lee (the one with more wrinkles)

****


DL HAMMONS is taking sign up until May 31 for THE WRITE CLUB. You might want to join.

81 comments:

  1. Authors and writers are the best support system! They help and promote and encourage without expecting anything in return.
    They didn't want to do eBooks? That is so odd...

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    1. Odd and downright dumb. Oops! Shouldn't say that I guess. But my frustration level was never higher during those months trying to get them to at least put up a "Look Inside."

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  2. Oh the things we learn after we've been put through the ringer. But sometimes, those are the lessons that tend to stick, never to be forgotten.

    I'm glad you're in the writing game, Lee :-)

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    1. Thanks, Angela. I'm glad I am, too, and that I've met such great people like you.

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  3. OMGosh, Lee. I remember your first book signing fiasco. It's amazing who well you handled that. Always thinking, you are. ;) And then your rights fight ... you truly are a writer's inspiration. ((hugs)) So grateful to call you friend.

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    1. We have been connected for a while, haven't we? Great to have your friendship.

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  4. Fighting for your rights back can be ugly. More authors go through it than people realize though. But I'm sure it made you tougher.

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    1. I'm finding that out with this exchange of letters. Glad I opted in.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your story, clee. You are strong, you are a great writer, and you have the books to prove it. You're also a good friend. Here's to smooth sailing ahead. :)

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    1. I appreciate that, Beverly. You've been with me for a long time and I appreciate that.

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  6. What a great experience store. I wish for the day when I can sign my first contract! I'm sure it will be confusing and wonderful all at the same time.

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    1. You've got a wealth of experience to draw from with this hop. I wish I'd had some of this when I started.

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  7. Great letter! It's amazing how much there is to learn in this industry! :)

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    1. I'm enjoying reading all the other letters. They have a lot of things to share with new writers and with me, the not so new one.

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  8. Not twice in a row! Oh, no!

    Great post, Lee. I agree about the writing community. There's just not a better bunch of people anywhere. ;)

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    1. I might have had that experience three times if they hadn't gone out of business. Maybe I was lucky. :-)

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  9. Such a journey. And...it's the business side of things that freak me out most about writing. I majored in English Ed and not business for a reason. :-)

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  10. Oh my. No wonder they went out of business. Who refuses to do eBooks? Wow. That was short sighted on their part. And you're right- you do write books people enjoy reading.

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. I think the president had a death wish, but some of the people who lost jobs were really great to work with.

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  11. Authors are awesome! It definitely sounds like you went through a lot with your first publisher. The bookstores where I've been signing have gotten them from Ingram directly...but I've also bought some through Author! Author! They offer them at just above wholesale. It helps to have a few in my trunk, I've found!

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    1. You're so right. I learned about having some in my trunk the hard way.

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  12. That sounds like such a nightmare to deal with! But authors are some of the most supportive people I know. :)

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    1. I didn't expect writers to be like this. It was wonderful surprise.

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  13. a book signing without the books? OMG sounds like a nightmare! Tha hell with the publisher!

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    1. It was a nightmare, but it taught me a lot about resourcefulness.

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  14. That sounds like a rough way to learn, but at least you've pulled out with some excellent life experience with lots of advice for those just starting out.

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    1. And with Carrie's idea, I can share it. Thanks for the visit, Loni.

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  15. Wow, no books (or almost no books) at book signing! That's stressful.

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  16. Lee, you've learned some very important lessons! I was thinking of submitting to that now defunct pubber. Could've easily been me in that position. You've clearly gotten good at being flexible and clever in unexpectedly uncomfortable situations. Impressive.

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    1. Thanks, Catherine. Glad you escaped the turmoil. And glad you found your own way so well.

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  17. Dang. Our stories are very similar. I too had two publishing houses go under. The second one really hurt, as I was only a couple of months away from publication.

    After getting my rights back, I also bought the cover art, so some good came out of my heartache. I feel your pain. But it all worked out in the end, right?

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    1. I think there are a lot of us with this kind of story. Mine worked out great and it looks as if yours did, too.

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  18. I wish I had known more about the business side at the start and I'm still learning. Good letter. Would you have listened?

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    1. Probably not. I'm prone to learning by doing.

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  19. Small presses and epublishers are folding right and left. It's sad. But I'd still rather put my books out on someone else's dime. Congrats on learning your way around social media! After the big push busted, I just use mine for entertaining myself - works much better that way.

    I finished SLIDING ON THE EDGE a few days ago. Very enjoyable! I haven't posted a review because I was busy trying on a bunch of new mc's. I finally found one that fits! Big relief! Now I can write you a review. :)

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    1. Slow and steady, Lexa. You'll do fine.

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  20. Great tips, Lee. I didn't realize you had all those frustrating times at the beginning. But you've overcome them and are doing great. Glad you mastered the social media aspect of it. I'd struggle with the marketing too.

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    1. I didn't think I'd whine in public, but when this hop came around I thought of it as sharing and helping new writers. Love that my experience may be put to good use.

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  21. So nice to learn your (slightly rocky) journey! Thanks for sharing it with us. I've read several of these letters today and find them just fascinating...
    Tina @ Life is Good
    On the Open Road! @ Join us for the 4th Annual Post-Challenge Road Trip!

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  22. A great story, well worth sharing. Thanks so much!
    Best,
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

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  23. Authors are definitely great support lines. And sorry to hear about your publisher, but I'm glad you fought for your books. :)

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  24. Great letter to your younger self! I wish I had learned more about the business side at the beginning too.

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  25. Yep. The business side is a big eye-opener I'm guessing for most writers in the process of getting published! And as for marketing...that is still largely unexplored territory for me :(

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  26. There is so much to take from your letter, Lee. I really enjoyed reading=)
    One of the most important lessons I have learned so far is that marketing will be an author's new best friend... whether he/she likes it or not. And with that marketing entails all of the social media which some introverts, like myself, cringe at. Building the platform has been the toughest, however, the relationships and lessons learned have been impeccable. As long as we remember to keep aside time for our writing, we are better equipped to open our hearts and minds to the critiques, feedback and experiences of others.

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  27. Wow. Very insightful. Thank you so much for posting the letter.

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  28. So glad you bounced back after the YA imprint shut down! I'm still learning about the publishing industry, and these great posts are helping. And I'm thankful for such a wonderful group of writers that I'm getting to know! Thank You C. Lee!

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  29. I can use SO MUCH of that advice. I'm a marketing noob, and terrified of promoting myself. I don't think I'll have the courage to self publish a novel, and I don't know which table I'd hide under if a publisher did pick up my WIP once it's ready, and asked me to promote it.

    You're such an inspiration, Lee.

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  30. No doubt you learned a lot! And you had a few lessons the hard way. But it is great that you ran into this supporting community. All these are great letters full of good advice. I'm enjoying reading them.

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  31. Yikes, you've had a rough time. But you've learned a lot along the way.

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  32. Hi, Lee,

    This was great. I need to definitely look into more marketing venues and learn this before I get my contract. Thankfully I have time, still being in the query phase.

    It's amazing how much we need to know. We are always learning, moving forward, and trudging through knee-deep mud. BUT we are NOT alone. We have our amazing community and friends in the pits with us. SO comforting...

    Thanks for your insights...

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  33. I didn't know your publisher closed down. I was really interested in one publisher and considered them but then they closed their doors. That's when I decided to self-publish. You've learned a lot and yes, fellow authors are great at helping with promotion. I'm amazed each and every day how kind they are and how willing they are to give a shout out. It's a great group to belong to.

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  34. I love this idea! And I love your advice. I'd probably share something similar with my younger, less wrinkled self. :)

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  35. Hindsight is 20/20 and those letters to self sure have a way of putting things in perspective. Youth is not without any glory though. Sometimes, I think if it weren't for youth, we'd never move forward at all - ah, the joy of being fearless and diving right in without any hesitation!

    M. J.

    Writing Tips

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  36. Talk about doing well under pressure! I'm sorry that you've had so many harrowing experiences. Fortunately, your positive attitude and perseverance has really paid off. Thanks for giving me hope, Lee!

    Julie

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  37. Talk about a lot of bumps in your road! I'm glad you had perseverance. It looks like it's paid off!

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  38. Yeah, that whole marketing thing. Knowing earlier that I'd have to market the book myself would have helped a lot. Publishing for indies is a land of trial and error, but we learn as we go and that's mucho importante.

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  39. Book signing ... but no books?
    Oh. My. Word.
    You've had your fair share of ups and downs...
    But I'm sure your wit and charm helped during those rocky times...?

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  40. I'm loving reading these letters. It's amazing what we go through that we had no idea about at all before we took the first step on the journey.

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  41. I can't imagine you were EVER a nincompoop at blogging. That's just inconceivable!

    I'm so glad you've learned as much as you have, despite the reasons for being forced to learn it all.

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  42. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  43. Fantastic post. People will benefit reading this in the compilation. I also learned about networking and marketing, since a lot of that falls on the author.

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  44. The business part....ahhh...that seems to bite so many writers. A new world is in front of us and it always isn't smooth sailing, but congrats on reaching several ports-of-call on you journey!

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  45. Dear younger and slightly older, Lee,

    I do understand you've been waiting, with eager anticipation, a comment from Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar. However, the diva dawg is having another diva dawg nap. This means I get to use the computer and actually comment.

    Despite some rather unfortunate setbacks, you have been inspired by the positive catalyst that is within your author community. May I add that this smug amateur cheers and applauds your efforts.

    I also note you networking all over the place. This is good and I will continue to share your wise, thoughtful words all over the place. I'm good like that.

    A superb posting, my good friend.

    Penny's main superhero fictional human character,

    Gary :)

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  46. Awesome. That's a story I'm hearing more and more these days--authors wrangling their rights back from publishers, especially ones closing their doors. It's such a tough market right now, but it's amazing to see how it's all changing. Definitely an adventure. Cheese to you, my friend.

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  47. But you did prove something to yourself, didn't you? You can do it. You have the moxie to overcome obstacles in your way and still make the grade.Congratulations

    I think all writers, with the goal of publication (indie or traditional) should understand the BUSINESS of publishing. You have to know that to navigate. Know your choices. Know how to market. develop not only a platform but a good support system.

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

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  48. Thank you for sharing your journey, Lee. If you need any help with promoting your books, just send me an e-mail - and I'm not just saying that because I read it in your letter. I really mean it. You are an amazing writer with a gift for bringing the heart of your characters to life. Wonderful letter!

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  49. what a great idea for posting this was. I am going to go read the other ones too! But this was a great way to get to know you and your process and to realize what I've known all along and can't stand is that the marketing is really up to you. It sounds like you really earned your stripes!

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  50. I love that you took those knockbacks and turned them into something so positive. I think you found the path you were meant to be on. And definitely needs to be known that a book deal doesn't mean you don't have to do your own marketing!

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  51. Wow, you learned a lot, and do did I. Thank you for a very helpful, informative post , wrapped up in a very creative package.

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  52. Wow, you learned a lot the hard way, same as I did and still do. I'm not sure if I'll ever finish a book of my own. I'm hooked on editing. But I do hope to publish my mom's poem as a picture book soon... or not soon. There's a lot left to do even with the illustrations complete.

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  53. holy cow you seriously dodged a major bullet and luckily go all those books in time!! great letter!

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  54. Great letter! I must admit that I am not savvy with marketing, but at the moment I don't need to be (famous last words...).

    I can't believe it's time for WRiTE CLUB again! I'm in. :)

    Happy Thursday!

    Sam
    Writing Through College

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  55. What a great letter! I love how you pushed through no matter what. Fantastic! Best wishes!

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  56. Great experience. You took everything you were thrown at and changed it around. All the best!

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  57. Wow, you persevered through a lot! I completely agree with you about authors--they're always so wonderfully supportive!

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  58. Okay, now I need you to write a letter to my past self! :D These are so weirdly inspiring!

    I really admire that you stuck to your writing guns through all the upheaval. A lot of authors have thrown in the towel after bad experiences with publishers.

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  59. Here's to perseverance and writers having options! :)

    Thank you so much for participating, Lee. We really appreciate it!

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