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Hello, Readers!

I’m back today with another in depth post about my first book series, Aster Wood. Today I’ll be looking at my writing experiences with those first books, along with what came after, and sharing it all with you!

Let’s get to it…

I’m Going to Be Famous

So there I was, Book 1 in my hands with at least two more I was planning to write. I’d had enough fun, and had felt so encouraged by the simple fact that I’d actually written a novel, that I’d already mapped out in my brain those stories that would come next. Of course, the next step, the road to publication, was much harder than I imagined it would be.

I think for most (or at least many) new writers, we hope and aim for a shot at the stars. We are maybe told that our book is good by some well-meaning friend or family member, and then imagine that it will surely take off into the stratosphere once published. 

This, of course, is wildly untrue. 

Agents!

I started to do research about how to find an agent. I skipped the whole editor part when I realized that they were VERY expensive (and wasn’t an editor someone who worked at the big publishing houses? They would do my editing for me, right?). I didn’t need an editor! I was going to be a star! 

Not so much. As my search for an agent began, I started sending out query letters to what eventually became over 100 agents who represented the Middle Grade genre. This part of the process was both tedious and depressing. One thing to never do is to send an agent an entire manuscript; that’s a great way for your query letter to get thrown in the trash. They want it how they want it, and each agent is very specific about how they want you to present your work to them. 

I was careful. I read every individual agent’s instructions for submission and followed them to the letter. I got a couple bites, too, requests to send along the first 50 pages were the most common. But nobody offered representation. 

Writing Contests

Then, I tried something different. There was a contest (I can’t remember where) to win a free round of editing and a shot at pitching an agent directly, all in the YA/Middle Grade genres. It sounded perfect, and when I submitted my 50 pages to the editor in question, I was delighted that he … almost picked me. Not to be dissuaded, I contacted him and asked if he had enough interest to either help me with the book or refer me to someone who could. He offered to help, and, knowing a bit more at that point, I brought him on as my editor.

So, here’s where it got tricky. Halfway through the editing process, I did more research about him. He was obviously respected in the publishing world, and had been fair and very helpful in his critiques of my manuscript thus far. And then I found out. 

He was 18-years-old.

Now, don’t run away just yet. This “kid” was a prodigy, and he had already interned at a major New York agency by the time I found him. (In fact, he now works for one of them. He skipped college and went straight to NYC. Unheard of.)

So, I freaked out for a minute there. His rates were very reasonable, and I supposed that his age was why. However, what an amazing person to start his own business at the age of 17 and make a go of it! Within fifteen minutes, I’d talked myself down from the cliff and realized just how lucky I was. 

Together, we cut out the first three chapters of the book, cleaned some other plot issues up, and I proceeded to continue to query agents with the new manuscript. Unfortunately, I’d already run through around 80 agents, and there were just a few left in the pool. 

Failing Forward, Indie-style

In the end, Aster Wood and the Lost Maps of Almara was not picked up, and I walked home with my tail between my legs, a failure.

I had a good friend and his kids over to our place for dinner one night, and I told him about my experiences. I told him that I was pretty much giving up, that I was quitting. 

Now, this is a guy who’d produced a feature length movie that had made it into the Sundance Film Festival, and his response was surprising to me.

Why not go indie?

I thought he was completely insane. 

Wouldn’t I be a laughingstock for thinking that my work was good enough to sell on my own? Wouldn’t I be one of those people who ordered thousands of books printed and then hid them in my garage for the next ten years? 

Nope, he said. Being an indie author was no different than being an indie filmmaker. My husband has a film background, and we saw indie movies all the time. Did the fact that they were indie make them terrible? 

Nope. 

Fast forward a few days, and I was all set to go indie, newly inspired. I’d found a few forums about how to do it through Amazon, read thread after thread of experiences and advice, and made a plan. Book 1 was done in March. I would spend the rest of the spring and summer writing Book 2, The Book of Leveling. Then, once I was ready to go, I would release them both at the same time. The plan worked. I made Book 1 permanently free (a good tactic at the time), and sold Book 2 at full price. Month over month, my sales were increasing steadily. Then, that winter, I released Book 3, The Blackburn Son. And so it went.

What Does The Future Hold?

Here I am now, several years later, and I’ve learned a ton.

I am not a wildly successful author, but I’m also not embarrassed by the path I’ve chosen to take. I could’ve let that one book sit and rot on a flash drive somewhere, but I didn’t. I put in some hard work, some capital for editing and covers, wrangled some amazing artwork, and took the whole thing seriously. Now I’ve written 19 novels and many, many short stories, and I’ve self-published all of them. (If that seems like a lot, check out my post about prolific writers.)

I know (for the most part) what I’m doing now, and I don’t plan to quit. The question is, what will you do when it comes time for you to publish? Or start that business? Or climb that mountain? 

I no longer wait around for people to approach me about my books. People are busy, and I have to get busy, too. So I put my work out there, day in and day out, and I’m proud of what I do. 

Next week, I’ll talk inspiration for characters and the place of imagery in my work, specifically with Aster Wood.

Until then, happy reading!

Jen

P.S. I added 10,501 words to my count this week! Even after weeks of drought I’m back. And that’s the point. No matter how many times you fall off the horse, it only matters that you get back on. Never quit.

 

One-Million Word Counter

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