Today, I am proud to welcome S.B. James, author of The Inventor's Son series! S.B. James tells us how she decided to take the plunge into publishing, and why she chose Steampunk as her primary genre.
Hitting the “Save and Publish" Button
By S.B. James
A journey begins with an idea. The idea, in my case, was that I would eventually become a writer. Back when I got this idea, I was still in high school, keeping a journal for English and handing it in periodically to my teacher, who would write in the margins of the composition book in red pen about how my journal entries were always “interesting.” I also had a few stories in mind, even back then.
One of those stories was about a boy whose father gets separated from him. The boy has to go look for him, while enemies are pursuing them both. Once I left high school, however, that idea got buried. I was reading historical romances heavily, in no small part due to the fact that I worked in a used book store, where the paperback romances with Fabio on the cover were plentiful. I got the notion that, if I ever was to be a published writer, I was going to have to write in this genre.
Any “paranormal” back in those days was hardcore horror, like Dean Koontz, Brian Lumley, and Stephen King. Romances with vampires, werewolves, or even angels were virtually non-existent back in those days. Furthermore, women didn’t seem to write too many science fiction or fantasy books. These genres were dominated by male authors and seemed to be written, by and large, for teens and young men to transition them from video games to the spy thrillers they would eventually be expected to read. Of course, I was a rebel and would read some of the epic fantasy books. I even would have liked to write one, but I never thought I’d see the day that women would or could write them and be taken seriously.
Years passed. Once the Harry Potter books were published, and the Sookie Stackhouse books were released, paranormal was the new normal. Those old ideas I had back in high school were suddenly much more mainstream.
So, I began a few different series ideas, some that hadn't been thought about in years.
Tip #1: Never completely dismiss an idea. You never know if it may actually work until you try.
That idea with the boy trying to find his father was going to be set in a space opera setting, with him and his friends and grandfather going all over the galaxy looking for him. But I soon realized that I might not actually be cut out for writing space opera. Fortunately, that was when I found out about Steampunk. I transitioned all the characters and then was able to add a few. The end result is The Inventor's Son series, of which I will be publishing the second full length book in late summer/early fall 2014.
Tip #2: If you actually get a manuscript that you feel is ready to publish, that’s when you’ve got some choices to make.
These choices that you make will depend upon your abilities to do other things besides write. Some people want to “go the traditional route” or be published by a big publishing house or one of their subsidiary companies. They want to get an agent, get their book shopped around, the whole thing. For many writers, this is a good choice, or at least something to do with your manuscript to get it out of your system. I do think that is why some writers choose to go the traditional route nowadays; they want to know for certain that their book is or isn’t “good enough” to get past the “gatekeepers.” One thing that these writers should remember, above all other things, is that they may never get a clear reason why their manuscript was rejected by a particular agent or publisher. Sometimes the gatekeepers make blunders. Big ones. And I don’t only mean the ones who passed up authors like J. K. Rowling. I also mean the ones they actually do publish and are just as bad as any poorly conceived self-published book.
What if you decide to self-publish your book, like I did? Don’t think for one second that self-publishing is only for people who “couldn’t go the traditional route” because they lacked confidence in their work. I can tell you from only my own experience that nothing can be further from the truth. As of this moment, I would have no qualms whatsoever about sending my book to agents, etc. The reason I chose the self-publishing route, quite frankly, is because I get control! I get to decide almost exactly, to the hour, when my book will get published! This is the best and worst part about this route—the author has complete control over the destiny of the finished book. The author picks the editor, picks the cover (or makes one), picks where to sell the book, picks whether to try and make a paperback version of the book available, etc.
This leads nicely to Tip #3: Educate yourself about all your options.
The internet is filled with all sorts of information, blogs and forums that are all geared toward aiding the new writer in their quest to become an author. Be wary of posts from anybody that are completely one-sided one way or the other, (there has been a great deal of bad press about Amazon and about Hachette books in the past month, and a great deal of spew from both sides.) An informed choice is always better than an emotional one.
One place for people who are inclined to try self-publishing that I recommend is kboards. The k is short for Kindle, and while the forum was initially for readers who wanted to swap tips on using the Kindle e-reader, the Writer's Cafe section is by far the largest. This is the message board that authors, mostly indie but also some hybrid, come to talk about their experiences. There is also a section for people offering there editing and book cover services, if you choose to use them.
Another resource I happened upon by accident last year (when he was first starting out) is the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast. If you are inclined to listen to podcasts, this one is very good. Very little fluff, gets down to business right away, and from my experience, pretty family friendly as well. You can find it on iTunes, or you can find it on Stitcher if you have that app. That's the podcast that recommended kboards, as well as a lot of great ideas for self-publishers.
While listening and learning, I got a better idea of what to expect. Once people start speaking openly about what really happens, it goes a long way in breaking the myths about all kinds of publishing. I learned that the most successful authors have a series (think George R. R. Martin, Tolkien, and a myriad of other authors too numerous to mention here.) They have to publish each subsequent book fairly quickly in this digital age in order to keep momentum going, but the quality also had to be there, as well as perseverance, because there are days when even the most stalwart writer can get discouraged.
Tip #4: Social media is a good resource for connecting with readers as well as fellow authors.
There are certain things that both traditionally published and self-published authors need to do, especially nowadays. All of us need to cultivate a base of future readers, and this is most of the time accomplished with social media. I admit I’ve been a bit astray with my own media presence (my Facebook fan page is kinda… yeah… Gotta work on that), but even if you get a publishing contract, you are going to have to do this, as the big publishers spend next to nothing promoting anything but the biggest names these days.
That said, some sites, like Goodreads, are better than others for connecting with readers, like Twitter. I see the potential for Goodreads to be a great avenue for finding people who might want to read my book. Facebook can be there for readers once they find me and read my books :).
Tip #5: Keep learning and know you need to be adaptable. I'm still in the learning process myself. Over at kboards just last night, there was a discussion about how much less a lot of people are selling at Amazon and how much more they are selling at Apple books. Adaptable authors are ready to shift their promoting efforts where they might be most effective. Things change quickly in the digital world, so keeping on top of these things is vital if your want to reach the most readers.
This is all do-able, and remember it can be a lot of fun and very enriching as well.
Check out S.B. James' blog: http://sbjamestheauthor.wordpress.com/
Check out S.B. James' blog: http://sbjamestheauthor.wordpress.com/