5 Things I Learned About Self-Publishing

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Here are some quick tips I’ve learned while self-publishing “Toilets In Pakistan”:

1. Don’t skimp out on important things

The cover, proofreading, appropriate ebook and print formatting, getting someone to critique your work for improvements… these are just some examples of important things you should NOT cheap out on. Yes, self-publishing doesn’t have to cost anything, but your finished work does. You have to financially invest in the quality of your work to compete with professionally published works and to gain consumer trust. This means paying someone to design your book, professionally edit and proofread, etc. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune: The internet is bursting with people offering professional services at affordable rates, such as at fiverr.com .

2. Recognize and accept what you can’t do on your own

Don’t waste hours on paint programs trying to design your own cover if you have no skills in graphic design, or if you want a highly detailed cover. I created my own cover because I was going for a basic, minimalist look, common amongst books like this.

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Unless you’re a computer programmer, coding expert, or other tech professional, don’t format an ebook yourself. Despite what you see in fancy previewers, the end result is bound to have errors and won’t translate appropriately across different devices. I got someone on Fiverr to format mine for under $10. You can do formatting for a print version yourself, however, since you can usually order a proof copy to check for any mistakes. Don’t rely on your own editing/proofreading skills, no matter how professional you are in this area.

3. Research similar titles

This is essential to understanding market trends and how to price and design your book.

4. Don’t rush

It’s so tempting to just publish something when all it takes is the click of a button, but beware: Until you’re 100% satisfied with your finished work and have re-read it to death, and then put it aside for a few days and re-read it again, don’t publish your work. Once you publish it, it’s out there for anyone to see, and many sites keep a permanent page up for it even if you pull it off the market. Rushing results in sloppy work and mediocre mistakes. Don’t fall prey.

5. Market appropriately

Putting your work out there is only half the battle; getting people to know it exists is the other half. Research marketing ideas and begin getting the word out well before your book is actually available. Focus your energy and resources on marketing to the right crowds and across the right platforms. If you’re writing about nutritional advice for seniors, don’t rely on internet marketing: Get into retirement homes or the local bingo. If you’re writing about cultural/ethnic topics, find places where diverse work is actively promoted or sought.

 

Self-publishing should not be “lazy”-publishing or even easy-publishing. If you’re serious about your work and want it to be respected, take time to craft a quality product you can be confident in.

Get Published: Top 5 Web Resources

These resources taught me about the publishing industry and the art of perfecting my creative writing. Without them, I’d be a deer in the headlights.

If you’re serious about your writing career, you have to check them out.

1. Holly Lisle

Lisle is a highly experienced author and writer, and a reliable source of information. Her site is the first writing resource I came across, and it also happens to be one of the best. It tops my recommendation list. She’s got excellent articles on the art of fiction writing and the world of publishing.

2. Writer’s Digest

This site offers so much to writers, I haven’t even explored all of it yet. It holds an extensive collection of articles from various contributors and is highly interactive, offering a forum, contests, workshops and various other community elements. However, since there’s a vast collection of advice and multiple contributors, don’t be afraid to take things with a grain of salt.

3. Jane Friedman

Friedman offers reliable advice like Lisle, however her background is in the publishing industry and she has more expertise related to the technical side of becoming an author. I haven’t explored her site fully yet, either, but from what I’ve read, it’s definitely high quality, interesting and helpful stuff.

4. Janet Reid AKA “The Shark”

Haha this one cracks me up so bad! Reid is an experienced, wise and hilarious literary agent. Not only is her blog entertaining, it’s excellent advice on dealing with agents and publishers. Definitely a great way to pass the time while arming yourself with knowledge!

5. The Query Tracker Forum

The Query Tracker website is great for anyone in the querying process (helps you track your query submissions and search up agents) and the forum is even better. You can post your query for review and the critiques can be game-changing.

 

Forcing yourself to write

I’ll have my snacks ready. I’ll settle comfortably into my chair. There’ll be no noise in the house and no one’s demanding my attention.

But the creative juices still won’t flow.

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That’s not usually the case, but it does happen.

The emotional tone and subject matter of a story influence how ‘readily writable’ a story is. Think Frankenstein vs. Pride and Prejudice; the first follows a determinedly dark, heavy feel, whereas the latter employs a wider, lighter range of moods and emotions.

Depending on an author’s personality and emotional state, one of these would be easier to write than the other.

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I’m always in the mood for creative writing but not always in the mood to deal with every subject and emotion. My stories tend to vary in emotionality and I strive for tonal balance whenever possible.

It would take me a ridiculously long time to write a story that was perpetually dark and heavy like Frankenstein. Building up that much brooding would take a while!

For things like that, I have to wait for organic processes and the right strikes of energy.

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The most satisfying work flows from emotional conviction. It’s a natural process which is difficult to mechanically induce. Pushing yourself too hard just results in unsatisfying, substandard work.

That’s why I never force myself to write.

9 Rude Awakenings for the Naive Writer

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Bonjour mes amis!

Alors,

I’ve been on a steep learning curve lately. Being a writer is one thing and being a published writer, apparently, is another.

Here’s an exposé on what I thought publishing my book would be like:

  1. I’ll write a killer manuscript on my first try, because of course, I’ll edit and perfect things as I write, making sure only my best is getting on that Word document; it’ll save me time and I’ll barely have any editing to do at the end.
  2. Maybe it’ll be tough to get published, but when I do, oh boy will that paycheck be sweet.
  3. I’m such a hermit, but that’s okay because people will automatically know about my book. The publishers will handle all the marketing. Maybe I’ll never even have to show my face!
  4. My book will probably sell thousands of copies, just like most other books do.
  5. My work will be famous.
  6. I’ll need to have thousands of fans to be successful.
  7. I’ll make a living off my work! Maybe I don’t need to finish that last year of university after all.
  8. The hardest part is writing the actual book. Everything after that should be a breeze.
  9. Once a publisher accepts my work, success will be instant. My book will be on the shelves in just a few months. Oh la la!

Since I’m nearing the completion of my first novel, I thought I’d do some research on book publishing, just so I knew what the next steps would be.

Here’s my face after the five minutes of that research:

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This is what pug-me realized:

  1. I will write many drafts of my manuscript before it’s presentable. The first version will be no better than the rough drafts we wrote in elementary school. This is why I was so slow to complete things before: I thought I had to have it perfect on the very first go. But in the words of Margaret Atwood, “If I waited for perfection I would never write a word.” That need for perfection and total control only ends up hindering your creative process. You start obsessing over the small stuff, and the big stuff never gets done.
  2. Most fist-time authors earn very little for their work. But you can finally get that super fancy mattress.
  3. I’ll have to promote the book myself. Publishers have limited budgets and lots of other books to work on. They’ll market your book–as in get it in stores– but not necessarily promote it as much as you’d like. They don’t focus exclusively on your book. If you want people to know your book actually exists, you’ll have to promote it like crazy. Media releases, word of mouth, book signings, book readings, talking to local bookstores, social media outreach, harassing relatives… the list of social endeavors is endless. This ain’t no place for a hermit.
  4. My book may barely sell a few hundred copies. Lots of published books never sell over a thousand…
  5. … so my work may not be famous.
  6. The strength of your fans is in quality, not quantity. Especially in fiction writing. A few people who actually care about your work are better than many who just see it as meh. If success to you means making people happy, even a few fans are enough to satisfy your heart. They’ll even help promote and support your work. If success to you means getting rich, fiction writing is the wrong place to be.
  7. I’m going back to school. The majority of writers cannot survive financially on their writing alone.
  8. The hardest part is promoting your book. Writing is easy once you get organized and focused. Getting people to care about your book, however, is not as easy.
  9. Even after a publisher accepts your work, it could take up to two years until your book is in stores. The publishing process has many elements–editing, cover designing, a whole bunch of other fancy things–which take time, and again, your book isn’t the only one in line.

Overall, I’ve realized that becoming a successful writer requires business know-how, networking prowess and patience, not just writing talent. It’s the same thing with other creative endeavors–actors, artists, singers–you need to get noticed.

If you’d like updates on my upcoming works, follow my blog or twitter.

Let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading 🙂

The hustle, the intestines and December

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Salut!

Ça va? Here in Calgary, the weather is divine. Not everyone likes the constantly changing mountain weather, but I love me some changing skies (at least in the summer, lol).

I’ve learned to appreciate Canadian weather and environment after extensive traveling in South Asia (and a brief stint in East Asia). After spending time in places with clogged, dusty air, the minty Canadian breeze feels like heaven on earth (though we’ve got our share of smog days in places like Windsor lol).

I’ve satiated my travel craze for the next ten years, but it’s left me with an intestinal affliction that might not heal for months. Physiologically, this is the worst time for me to get hit: I’m immunocompromised and I can’t take most drugs right now. So all I can do is hope my body fights this off on its own. So far, it isn’t doing too bad. Go immune system, go!

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And although it’s the worst time physically, it’s the best time in every other way for me to be the most cripplingly sick I’ll probably ever be. I live with my parents (hi mom) and don’t have to worry about the roof over my head. I can pass out whenever the lack of energy gets too real, or remain catatonically curled up in bed when the worst of the nausea strikes (lemons and ginger people, lemons and ginger).

Despite everything, I’ve set AYAME’s completion date for December, six months from now. There’ll be major distractions along the way, but if I hustle hard, the final version of the manuscript will be complete by then.

I’m limited in my ability to network and spread the word about AYAME, especially at such an early stage, but I know things will pick up. We need stories like AYAME. South Asian girls need more representation in literature. It’s about time we got something more than a high school girl dealing with an identity crisis. It’s about time we got over the fact that a character is Muslim (and it’s about time we got some unapologetically religious characters, too). Let’s push the barriers in more creative genres. I want FEMALE action heroes of colour. I want confident, powerful protagonists that AREN’T scantily clad in sexualized costumes. I want characters who aren’t embarrassed of their differences. I want the narrative to change.

UPDATE (Oct. 5th, 2017): I am SO not working on AYAME right now; it’s been put on the back-burner as I deal with some other things. I left this post up however so y’all can see the process a writer goes through when trying to set and meet deadlines.