So you want to be a writer....

I often get emails asking me to offer advice about writing. Whether the inquirer is aspiring to publish their first novel, is still in the beginning stages of putting pen to paper or think about it every once in awhile, I get flooded with questions.

And not just in emails. In real life too. Whenever I explain what I do for a living the inevitable reply always pops up, "I've always wanted to write a book."

Probably three out of four people tell me this. I'm not exaggerating, that is the number one response I get.

And I love it that way. I LOVE that so many people are creative. That they are actively thinking of ways to create stories and exercise their imagination.

How to Write a Book

But there is one difference between them and me. One small, insignificant detail that separates them from always "wanting" to write a book, and me who has a career in writing books.

I've done it. I've written the book. I've spent hours and hours of my life writing, editing, ignoring the world, my family and pop culture.

And they haven't.

Ok, that sounds really rude. Really harsh. And really cynical.

But listen to this because I truly mean it. I am not saying that in this arrogant tone that insinuates I'm better than you. Because I'm not and I don't think that I am or ever will be.

What I'm really saying, is that the only difference between me and you, is that I finished the book and you're still thinking about it.

In life, I believe this. The only thing that separates Successful People from Non-Successful People is initiative. The difference between wanting to write a book and writing a book is simply in the "doing it" part.

You are the only one stopping you from writing and finishing a book.

Does that sound really inspirational speaker to you??? Ok, it kind of is... Lol. But it's TRUE. When people tell me that, I say THEN DO IT. Nothing is stopping you. Yes, you're busy. So am I. Yes, you have other things going on. So do I. Yes, it's hard for you. It is for me too. Yes, you don't know what to write about. Guess what? I don't either.

When I wrote my first couple books I had two children 2 and under. I worked a full time job. I managed a house. And I had a social life- thank goodness.

You have to make time in your life to write the story you want to tell. It's up to you. No one is telling you, you can't write a book. But they are telling you, you could be doing other things. Like friends, kids and family. Make time. Set goals. Get it done. That's the only thing in between now, when you don't have a book published under your name and the future, when you do.

The other thing I hear a lot is "Well, I want to, but I have no idea how to do start. I could never write an entire book."

I'm going to tell you a secret, my writing process.

And granted this doesn't work for everyone, but it is a place to start. And I believe it should work for everyone.

Chapter One- put it in a blank word document. And voila, your manuscript is started. Don't title it, don't plot it, don't do anything, just write "Chapter One."

Now, most likely, if you're reading this blog and have stuck with me thus far, then you already have an idea rolling around in your head. When I started my first book, I had at least three book ideas up there.

I wrote none of them.

Because as soon as I typed Chapter One a whole new concept came out of my fingers and I just went with it.

Ok, I know that I am this absolute hippy and my writing style is a little more "organic" than most. But I also know that if you're a "Planner" and you've been thinking about writing a book, then your idea is not just an idea but an 8 point plot summary with names already picked out for your main characters and a working title.

What I'm saying is that when you want to write a book, when you start the entire, epic long process.. it starts with Chapter One.

Now go forth. Open your document. And type it out.


Just kidding. There's more to it than that. Because after you write your chapter title, you need actual content. I can't help pull that out of you. But I can simplify it enough so that it doesn't sound overwhelming.

And I swear to you I use this thought process every single book, every single chapter, every single time I sit down to write.

A book starts with one word. Turn that word into one sentence. That sentence into one paragraph. And that paragraph into a chapter. Do this chapter after chapter.

And you will get your book.

Of course when you think about a complete manuscript, finished, edited, with cover art and acknowledgments thanking the Academy you will get overwhelmed!! That feels IMPOSSIBLE.

And it is impossible at this point. You have to start somewhere. So just start with a word. And see what happens.

You're not under deadline. You have no one telling you what to write or what should happen. Your first book gets to be the most freely thinking project of your life!!! It's exciting! It's an adventure!! You're going to get to know yourself better than you ever thought possible!! And you're going to make all kinds of new friends during the process.

Granted they will all be fictional....

But you're going to love them as much as your own children, worry about them, lose sleep over them, call other people by their names. They are going to become an extension of you and there is no greater feeling in the world. (As far as your career goes. Family gets to feel better than that.)

The best piece of advice I got while writing, what I have followed with every single book... Write the story you want to read.

If you're excited about it. Your future readers will be excited about it.

Instead of fiction, it will be a life-changing spiritual encounter. Instead of a story, it will be your gift to others. Instead of just another book, it will become the book people call their favorite, the one they read over and over and over.

And more than anything else that is the highest compliment anyone can ever give you.

Ok, so write your book first. Don't you dare start a Facebook page, start submitting to agents, tell your friends you're a "writer.." DON'T DO ANY OF IT UNTIL YOU FINISH YOUR BOOK.

If your goal is to be a writer, then at least have something to back up that statement.

I heard once that anyone who "write's" is a writer. And while I agree with this on an existential level, do not give yourself this EASY way out.

Finishing a book is the EASIEST thing you will do during this whole process. I promise you that. And does that sound easy to you??? Absolutely not.

So force yourself to finish. Take six months, take six years, take however long you need to. But push yourself, challenge yourself to finish. And then reward yourself by typing THE END.

Now you are a writer. Now you are an author. And the real fun can begin.

Getting Ready to Publish
The publishing process. Cue the ominous, scary music, goose bumps and immediate nausea.

I should put a disclaimer in right now. I did everything wrong before I did it right. I did everything backwards and the slow way and I'm STILL trying to figure this world out. But in my process of making lots and lots and lots and lots of mistakes.... I learned a lot.

So I have just mountains of experience I can pass on to you.

Get ready.

I finished my first full length novel in 2007. It is a contemporary young adult that will never, ever, ever see the light of day.

It's awful.

You probably wouldn't even recognize my "voice" if you read it. It's very elementary.

But it was my first book and I thought it was the greatest thing to ever hit the literature world.

I read over it a couple times, edited as best as I could (Which we can all agree that I am not the best editor of my own things... ahem....) and started submitting to Literary Agents.

At the time, Indie Publishing was non-existent. Going the traditional way was my only option. And I researched the bejeezus out of it. There are thousands of resources online about how to get published and I read them all. Or at least it feels that way.

I went to all the big houses, I wrote at least 20 different versions of Query Letters and I grew a huge, stinking Ulcer.

The funny thing is, that my first manuscript- the one that's awful and should be burned- got a lot of attention and I started getting some interest.

Of course, they read the first ten pages and politely declined immediately. Still, that went some what successfully in my mind. I had people wanting to take a look at it.  That's a big deal.

What I learned though, was that it was not good enough. I did not have what it takes to be a published author. And I should either give up or give up.

Then Twilight BLEW UP. It was everywhere. I waited five hours in a book store for Breaking Dawn to release. I fell in love with Vampires so much I convinced myself I could watch True Blood.

Uh... turns out I am way to chicken for that show. However I did last through the first season, even after the nightmares started. :)

It seemed world-wide interest lay in the world of the Paranormal.

So after probably a hundred rejections of my first book, which was coincidentally called Reckless, I decided to write a different book. A better book. A paranormal book.

Finishing my first manuscript was a life goal of mine. Seriously, I imagined myself writing ONE book in the entirety of my life. But after I finished it, I kind of thought... that wasn't so bad.

I'll do another one. And this one will be better.

After I wrote Reckless Magic (which was supposed to be a vampire story, but I just didn't have it in me) I started the researching/submitting/rejection process all over again.

This was now 2009. I was obsessed with researching the market. (If you truly want to be successful, you will become obsessed too.) I still am. And what makes or breaks trends and books and authors. This is when I learned that most successful authors have all scrapped their first book.

Starting with Jane Austen and Northanger Abby.

It turns out that your first manuscript is a learning process, a journey of self and discovery and more than likely complete and utter crap.

I found this to be very, very, very true. However, a lot of authors are successful from their first book... ie JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer.

But please keep that in mind.

If I would have published the first version of Reckless, I would not be sitting here writing a blog post about how to write a book. I would be burying my dreams and aspirations of a writing career in my backyard with a shovel and sweat, blood and tears.

So. My second novel- which I coincidentally titled Reckless. I just LOVED that title. And both series of books were always going to be a four part series in which they followed the Reckless, Hopeless, Fearless, Endless train.

I knew this book was light years better than the first. I was obsessed with the story. It was a book I wanted to read, which was very important. And it was a book I wanted other people to read.

Enter the Beta Readers, although I didn't call them this at the time. I just wanted other people's opinion. Sure I thought it was good, but I thought my first book was good too. I couldn't look at it objectively and I didn't want to tell a lot of people about it either.

During this whole process, none of my friends knew I was writing books or wanted to be an author. I mean those are huge goals and because I knew the process included lots of rejection, I didn't want to set myself up for embarrassment and more failure.

So I went to people I loved and trusted first. My sisters-in-law that were also in high school at the time. They were, after all, my target audience. One of them absolutely adored the story. The other thought my first book was better.

I don't know what that says about me.... lol.

But anyway. They both believed that it was a "good enough" book to get published.

The publishing industry disagreed. I submitted Reckless Magic over 150 times. To different agencies, literary agents, big houses, small houses... it did not matter.

There are plenty of websites with directories of agents online. And I would literally start at the A names and work my way through the list. I would match up my genre to the agent, I would write guideline specific letters, I would edit them and re-edit them and send them back out.

And I got a form letter of rejection every single time. Nobody wanted to read Reckless Magic.

Not even the first ten pages.

I spent two years of my life submitting Reckless Magic. And I will never regret those years... but man. That was hard. It is hard to hear that a project you believe in to the marrow of your bones, that you have cried over, fought for and dedicated hours and hours and hours of your life to is simply not even good enough for a glance or personalized rejection.

But that is the nature of this business. And if you are serious about getting published, you better develop some thick skin. Because if it's not publishers, editors and agents telling you your not good enough, it's readers and critics and book bloggers.

If you write a book, make sure you believe in it one million percent because sooner or later it is going to be ripped to shreds and you're going to feel like your soul was cut open and left to bleed to death on live TV.

Not even joking a little bit.

I will take this moment to advise you of my cure for this... Buckets of Ice Cream + Bottles of Wine + a strong support group of people who love you + a solid mission statement.

Heck yes, a mission statement. Write one for yourself. What is your goal as a writer? New York Times Best Sellers List? Some award you want to hang on your wall? Two readers that like your stuff? Just one person that made it all the way to the end???

Mine is a story motivated by a strong, independent heroine where love does not make her stupid, careless and co-dependent.

I also wanted to reach teenage girls with a story not driven by unnecessary sex, needlessly rebelliousness in which the character hates her parents, is rude to her parents, completely disregards said parents or belittles them. Oh and I wanted to instill in them a desire to travel the world.

That last part has changed a little bit, but only because my audience is different than I anticipated. And while I still have a teenage readership, the majority of my readers are moms just like me. This has been an unbelievable blessing but completely unexpected.

Ok. But a mission statement helps. At least it helps me. WHY are you doing this? WHAT are you doing this for? WHAT is your end goal?

For me, I write because I literally can't imagine a life in which I don't write every single day. Not only is it part of me, but it's healthy for me. And not everyone will understand that, but that's a different blog.

So figure it out. Figure out why you want to do this and make it mean something. That way when the negative reviews start coming in- and they will, oh they will- and the rejection letters literally fill up your email box, you will still have a purpose, you will still be grounded to this dream.

Because I'm going to simplify it again. Once the book is written, the difference between success and failure is perseverance. You keep at it, you don't take no for an answer and you work your ass off. Every single day.

I want to say this too. The book that you are pushing, might not be the book that will succeed. If you wrote a terrible book- and be honest with yourself enough to be able to admit that- it does not mean you will always write crap. Keep writing. Keep finishing manuscripts. Keep pushing yourself until what you have is good, and inventive and the world as a whole literally can't live without your words.

Traditional vs. Indie    

This is the part of the story where I tell you which way is better to publish. Of course, I'm not going to do that. You have to decide which way is better for you. But I will tell you the ups and downs to both.

First, if you even think you want be published by a big house and have your print books in stores. START the Traditional way. DO NOT Indie publish your manuscript, get a hundred sales under your belt and then start submitting queries.

The last thing you want to do is give agents a reason to turn you down. And unless you have NY Times list numbers, they will turn you down no matter how good you think your sales are.

When Reckless Magic went free for the first time I had 35,000 downloads in one week alone. Are those numbers good enough for a publishing house? Nope. Not even close.

Now, if they were paid books... that's a different story. But they weren't.

Have I ever had numbers good enough to attract an agents attention? Nope. Not even close.

Now I have lots of friends that have. And so it seems if you're Indie and get on the NY Times List- not the USA today list... that is not good enough- then an agent will find you. But that also doesn't mean a house will pick up your book. That just means you have an agent submitting to publishing houses for you and one day you will pay them 15% of all your profits.

So, if you want to go Traditional. Write your book. Edit it YOURSELF (Do not hire someone. That is wasted money since if they pick you up they will hire someone to do that.). Have a critique group edit it. Make it the best thing to ever come out of you. And then submit. When you submit, make sure you are an expert about each agent you are submitting to, you know their submission guidelines like the back of your hand and each and every letter is personal.

Then prepare yourself to be rejected. Even Stephenie Meyer was rejected something like 30 times. It will happen. Prepare yourself.

It's ok to cry. :)

I've thrown every rejection letter I've ever gotten away. If I can't see it... it doesn't exist, right?? But maybe you want to frame them. Put them in a scrapbook? This is the road where your eternal spirit is forged and refined on. It's not a bad thing. But it is inevitable. So get ready.

Traditional Publishing is a TON of work up front. Getting an agent might be the hardest thing you ever do. Right up until you try to get a publishing house next. :) But once you get an agent, a lot of the work is taken out of your hands at that point and your job gets easier. Publishing houses take a lot of burden off the author.

Their paycheck is also a lot smaller.

The average middle of the road Author sells 500 copies over the lifetime of their book. They have real jobs, they have secondary income. They are not living off their sales and royalties. They live off advances.

Unless you write Harry Potter or Twilight, do not expect to quit your day job.

You also have to look at numbers. Let's say a publishing house offers you an advance for $50,000 for your first book. (This number is extremely high by the way.) First you pay your agent 15%, so $7,500 disappears. And you pay taxes at 17% (roughly), so $8,500 goes next. Then you're left with $34,000. Most contracts cover three years... So your take home is about $11,300/per year.

Not a whole lot of money.  And I haven't even considered editing fees, cover fees, and any kind of marketing.

Plus the print industry is such that you should not expect to make anything after your book goes to print. There will never be enough left for you in books sales. I think the average author makes 17% off print books, or roughly that. That's if they weren't bought whole sale and sold in bulk. And if your books sells for $9.99, your take home is about $1.70. So if you sell 500 copies a year... that's like $850/year. Don't forget to pay your agent and the government!!

But like I said before... figure out your dream. Is your dream to have books in Targets and Barnes and Noble and where people can see them in print? Does your dream include having other people take care of the day to day stuff and all the marketing/PR/editing/cover art/anything else that makes your head spin stuff?? (Also, don't get me wrong... you will have to do a TON of marketing and PR even if your Traditional, but you at least have some help.)

You have to decide.

Because the Indie side is not that much simpler.

Although, upfront it is.

All it takes to Indie Publish is a couple quick clicks of your mouse and Ta-Da you're a published author!! Congratulations.

And while I will push Indie all day, every day... especially because you make more money.... it is a TON OF FREAKING WORK.

So be prepared. You do everything from finding a good editor, to finding a good cover artist, to finding fans, to marketing, to PR, to pricing, to every little detail. That is all in your hands.

But on the plus side, it is all in your hands.

You don't have someone telling you what you can and can't write. Or an editor that just changes the book and doesn't need your approval. Or deadlines and approval boards and a publishing house that may or may not pick you up next time around.

You control everything. Including pricing, which you will do better at in Indie. Unless, again, you are Nicolas Sparks and run an empire.

But it is so so so so much work.

To give you an example, I will share my life with you. And while I have four kids all six and under and a husband and a life and a house. I work at least eighty hours a week. I don't get weekends, I don't get nights off. If I'm out on a date, I need to be social media-ing. If I'm home I need to be at my computer. If I'm sleeping, I'm dreaming about characters. I go to bed after midnight every single night and I get up with the kids at 6:30 AM. I write while they play around me. We live in chaos. My dishes are always dirty, my clothes always in piles on the floor and my brain always a mess.

If I leave my house to go anywhere, I take my computer. Who knows when I'll have thirty minutes to quick write something? I am never bored, never without something to do and always engaged to some kind of Internet-wielding device.

Now I have really, really struggled to find a balance with family and career. And I do devote time to my kids and husband. But that doesn't mean I don't live with constant guilt and what-ifs. And I've given up a lot of other things in my life.

I haven't watched a TV show just for me in.... over a year. In fact, I've given up TV altogether- save for when my husband has it on and I'm writing in the same room with him. I no longer read for pleasure, unless I force myself to take a weekend. I don't do girls nights or lunches, or playdates anymore except on the rare occasion. I work full time, more than full time. And on the weekends? Just more days for me to work.

I really, truly try to take Sunday off. But... when I'm under deadline and I am right now- under a few- I can't.

And is it really ever taking time off anyway when I'm plugged into social media for everything?

And I have to be. If you want to be successful, you have to stay connected to your fans. Of course, I want to, as well. But that is the nature of this job. And you have to be comfortable with that.

Thankfully I have a very forgiving family. Even though my 6 year old, literally told me today, that she didn't want to have kids because then she can't work. She would rather work than have kids.

So.... we might both be headed to therapy in a few minutes. Yikes, right???

I say that, but really, my family gets much, much more of my attention than my writing does. I don't have a choice in that matter.

It's much easier to write now though than it was at the beginning. Now I can justify my time at the computer. During my first three books, I wasn't making any money, so it was harder to explain why I needed to lock myself away in a room for hours on end. (But I also had less kids at the time) So I literally squeezed writing in wherever I could. Nap time, every night after the kids went to bed I was at my computer while my husband watched TV or played video games, I would wake up 20 minutes before the kids and squeeze in half a chapter, I would put a movie on and pray that they don't become adults that think they were raised by television, I would say no to nights out with friends. So... a lot like now.

But writing has to be a priority in your life or you will never finish.

That is the truth.

And those are my thoughts on Indie vs. Traditional. I think you know where I stand on the issue. But would I never sell out to a traditional publisher?? Um, yes I would. There is a dollar amount I would sell for. There are books I am willing to let go of and hand over to a publisher. And there is a point every single day where I wish I could give most of this control over to someone else. It's hard work and it's exhausting.

But I'm happy with Indie. I'm blessed for what it's done for my life. And I really, really, really like the control and flexible deadlines. Plus, I make 70% compared to 17% and those numbers are hard to argue.

Plus, please look at the future of publishing. And look at it seriously. Borders already closed their doors. Text books are even moving to e-formatting. Yes, I would absolutely love to have my books in stores, where I could pick them up and smell them and hold them and cuddle them and when I cry, they will soak in my tears and when I eat Cheetos, they will absorb my smudge marks. But, how much longer are books going to be sold in stores?? How much longer are bookstores going to be around for books to be sold in them??

Think about everything.

And it's not to say that you can't Indie Publish and then one day go Traditional and vice versa. Just really think about your options and what's best for you.

How To Indie Publish

On with my story.

So, the end of 2010, I was still submitting queries, still getting rejections, still feeling like my dream was impossible and that I was a failure as a writer. My husband, who has always been the most supportive man, started encouraging me to self-publish.

Well, I was an expert on everything publishing at this point. I mean, I had spent hours researching, reading every piece of advice, how-to and successful author blog I could find. I had books dedicated to writing, including The Dummies Guide to Getting Published- seriously. I mean, honestly, I was an authority on the subject.

And if I knew anything... it was this. Self-Publishing was admitting defeat, declaring that I was a failure and embarrassing myself beyond what I felt comfortable with.

So I said No. Adamantly No.

But he kept encouraging me to look into what Amazon was doing with their Kindle. So, I said I would but never found the energy.

Early 2011 I received my very first Kindle. And all of my thoughts and preconceptions and convictions about Self-Pubbing died. Abruptly and without suffering. I mean, I read Amanda Hocking's My Blood Approves in one day and said I'm doing this. If she can do it, so can I.

.99 for a book??? Heck yes. Sign me up.

Now remember I had been submitting since 2007. I had received up over 250 rejections at this point. And I was desperate to just get my book out there.

The thing about me though, is I'm not very quick about things. I take my time and I like to know what I'm getting myself into. So I sent Reckless Magic off to two more friends. One was an avid reader and not a close friend, but someone I knew would be painfully honest with me. And the other was my husband's best friend- someone I also knew would be honest with me- and a reader of every genre. I also knew it was not his typical genre, so if it was a terrible story he wasn't really in danger of getting sucked into the stupid romance and becoming blind to everything else.

This was a big step for me, since I had never even told anyone other than my mom and husband that I had been writing. I was a nervous wreck and physically ill over it. But I got ok reports from both.

They both said, yes it's good enough to compete with what's out there, but will never be anything insanely popular. And I think that's actually a very accurate description of what happened.

I read through it again. At this point I had edited Reckless Magic myself about 20 times and had a friend look through it. And then we looked for options for a cover.

When I published in March 2011, the resources available today did not exist. An editor was out of my price range by thousands of dollars, a cover artist was a maybe-someday-dream and I was clueless as far as marketing went.

For the cover, we originally went with my brother-in-laws girlfriend who had some graphic design experience. And you can still find this cover online.... its' confusing. And, well, if you saw it, you would just know it wasn't a good fit.

About a month after publishing, one of our very good family friends, who is also an artist, volunteered to make me a cover in exchange for lawn care. (My husband works for a lawn care company.) This might have been the single miracle that pushed Reckless Magic into being successful. He took my concepts and came up with two covers for me. The blue Reckless Magic Cover and the white Hopeless Magic cover. I asked for both because I knew I wanted Hopeless to be white after Amory's magic- it was my dedication to Amory at the end of that book. Pat, the cover artist, then went forward and designed all the Star-Crossed covers, except for The Reluctant King. And he did it all in exchange for some mowing and fertilizing.

This was a huge answer to prayer in my life, but not the average story. Today, online you can find cover design artists a plenty. And they all do stunning work and are easy to work with. We now do some of the covers ourselves. My husband is really good at them. And you can do your own as well. has an amazing how-to tool if you need help.

Reckless Magic was also initially titled just Reckless. But it turns out there's like 200 books with that same title. Pat suggested changing up the title to be more paranormal inclusive and so Reckless Magic was born.

It is important to note though, that by the time Hopeless Magic released in August of 2011 I had sold 50 total copies in six months.

And I don't even think that many of Hopeless were sold in follow up.

I really believed I would never sell books. I mean, the majority of my readers were my family and friends - who now knew about the writing and were very supportive, but they did their part by just buying one copy.

I was honestly close to giving up, when my husband gave me great advice. I asked him, "What if I don't sell anything? What if I never sell anymore books than this?"

And he said, "Who cares! You're doing what you want to do, what you dream about doing. Who cares if nobody else buys your books, you want to write books, and you are writing books. That's all that matters."

That gave me some much needed perspective. Whether I wanted to believe it or not, I was living my dream. I was officially an author of published books, I was writing daily, even if it wasn't supplementing my income and I was loving every minute of it. Who cares about the rest?? That would come.

And it did, because not even two weeks later, we made Reckless free and that's when I had all those downloads. Emails and messages started pouring in from everywhere and people were desperate for Fearless Magic. Which released like three weeks later.

That was my second miracle.

I had no idea putting a book for free would get that much attention. I hadn't even made a Facebook page for myself yet.

That is also when I realized I needed an editor. Thank you 1 star reviewers!!! :) 

My aunt, a former English teacher, volunteered and I immediately agreed. Third miracle.

She wasn't a professional editor, but I think she did phenomenally. I am a difficult writer to edit for and I make a LOT of mistakes. I will admit that. But she was great to work with and so very supportive. I will always be grateful for her.

Since then I've hired a professional editor. And these days you need to hire one too. There is no reader left that is tolerant of editing mistakes.

Remember I started publishing after reading Amanda Hocking and she for sure didn't use an editor. There used to be a measure of forgiveness for Indies, but not anymore. And I think this is a good thing. I think it means the public expects a certain quality from Indie Authors. That is a huge measure for how far we've come over the last several years.

A List of Last Minute Advice

Find a good editor!!! This is a must and a necessity and don't even think about publishing until you do. You can find them online easily these days and they are not that expensive- although it will be an investment for you. And if you want a reference, just go to your favorite, well-edited Indie book, look up their acknowledgments and see who they use. Easy.

And then find a good group of friends. DO NOT just start submitting to authors that have never heard of you, or asking them to review your work. They won't be able to help you anyway. And you will burn bridges.

You need a group of peers you can trust and that support you. A random author does not have your best interest in mind. Find a group of authors that you can go to for advice, encouragement and an avenue to bitch and cry to. You need those people so much more than a form letter from your favorite author telling you to follow your heart.

And find a good group of Beta Readers. Someone who will dedicate the time it takes to read your work and give you honest opinions. This will not be the same as your author group of peers. As a rule, I don't read ANYTHING from other authors I know or that are in any genre I write while I'm writing it. There is too much plagiarism for me to be comfortable with. I don't want anything accidentally wiggling into my brain and one day be accused of something I despise. Your betas are often avid readers that know the market and know your genre.

But make sure you get references or that they are people you already trust. And they need to sign an online contract that keeps them from publishing your work after you give it to them or sharing it in any way before it's officially published. You have to protect yourself.

Get yourself an LLC. Become a company. And get yourself an accountant.

Those are all necessary ends that need to be tied up nice and tight.

And make sure you have a fabulous blurb. Whilst they are my least favorite thing to write, they are the selling point to your manuscript. You need a good one. Don't be afraid to ask for advice and don't be afraid of negative criticism.

The thing about this, and I mentioned it earlier, is that yes you need thick skin, but you also need to be receptive to good advice. Recognize when someone is trying to help you, when their advice is worth taking. Every day is a learning experience and you need to be able to discern between something that can further your career and something that will just dig and claw at your heart until it poisons you.

Sometimes there is a little bit of both.

Nobody likes to be called poisonous sludge- which in fact I have been- but did it make me want to be a better writer. Heck yes, it did.

Be careful with reviews. Yes, you want to read them. Should you always??? No. Goodreads is a WONDERFUL resource for readers. And the depressed-writer's-guide-to-gaining-100-pounds through ice cream. Be careful and remember... everything in moderation. You don't have to read all 100 1 star reviews to get an idea that people don't like you're book. 5 of them will probably give you a good idea.

And the same goes for 5 star reviews. Do you really need to read about how fantastic you are all the time??? Is that going to push you to be a better writer and try harder?? Um, probably not.

Finally, you can spend years editing your first manuscript. I did. In fact, I cannot even physically make myself read through Reckless Magic anymore. I've simply done it too many times. But at some point you have to let go. And you have to believe you are putting out the best manuscript you can. Advice helps, but I think it's a gut feeling too.

In this electronic world though, you do have some forgiveness. If you publish and realize there are more mistakes than not, re-edit, and re-publish. You have that freedom. I do it all the time. :) Or if you come to hate your cover art, re-design and re-submit. Always, always, be playing around with pricing and marketing until you figure out what works for you.

An example. I used to tier my pricing. Reckless was free, but I made up for that with my tiered pricing. I didn't make more money that way, I just paid for giving away a free book? Does that make sense. But lately the tiered pricing hasn't been working for me. So while Reckless is still free, I have gone to a more consistent pricing program. But I am always reorganizing that and discovering what works.

Have faith in your work. If you miraculously made it through this entire blog, then you believe in your manuscript. Do it. Get it finished. Get it published. And put yourself behind it one million percent.

It's hard work, yes. But it's also more rewarding than anything you can imagine. And you deserve to feel that way.

Final Resources

Ok, so I didn't have any one to go to when I started. So I'm going to give you some tools to use in your process.

Here is a fantastic blog to go to for all self-pubbing questions. For real, this is a once traditionally published author now in the Indie world and he has SO much to offer!!!

JA Konrath's Blog

Cover Artists-

I use Okay Creations and Zenya GFX. But there are SO many more. Find your favorite covers, open the book and see where they get theirs. Some of my favorite covers are ones we did ourselves.


I've never used a formatting company. I learned this task the hard way and it's a pain in the eye. But you CAN pay for it and make your life a hundred times easier.

However, if you do not want to do that, or if you would like to save money and do it yourself. Use the style guide. It is a fantastic resource.

Smashwords Style Guide

Writer's Resources-

You can spend time and money going to writer's work shops or finding critique groups, or you can use this. This is an online workshop that not only simplifies your struggle to find professional advice, but is very inexpensive. If you want professional advice without burning bridges by spamming authors or paying an arm and a leg this is where to go!!

Online Writer Workshop 

PR and Marketing-

This is such a huge part of your career. A good marketing strategy is invaluable. Here is a link to an Indie PR group that has fantastic advice and a helpful blog.

Inslinger PR

Ok, that's it. That's all I got!! I hope this was helpful.

Now go do it. Write your Chapter One and finish your masterpiece.


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  1. I sat down three weeks ago and started Chapter One. Now I'm at 18,ooo words and counting. My basement walls are covered in giant post-it notes with character traits, possible plot twists and everything else I couldn't keep in my brain any longer. For now, I'm just focusing on the writing, but I've pinned this to my "secret" board and will absolutely reference your tips as I progress. Thank you for being an inspiration and for making me want to develop characters I loved as much as I loved Eden and Kiran.

  2. Rachel, I like your blog. I loved it on

  3. Oh my gosh Rachel thank you so much for posting this! I have been researching how to write a book and then you posted this! Thank you for sharing and giving me motivation to start my book. Love your work!

  4. Rachel, I've been writing for years, but without much success. My daughter referred me to this blog! My confidence is now higher. I'm in the editing stage or three novels. I'll work on the first written (which is really my second novel) and then move to the more recent ones. Great advice! Patty Knowles

  5. I'll be graduating in two years so I have had to start looking career paths, colleges, SAT prep blah, blah, blah. I really love writing, but making a career out of it is a different thing. This was exactly what I needed. A realistic approach to publishing and making writing a lifestyle insteaf of a hobby. Thank you for somehow reading my mind. I am anxiously awaiting for the next episode of Love and Decay.

  6. I googled "Rachel Higginson on writing a book" and this was top of the list. 2014 is going to be my year. I'm more of a Glass Castle memoirist, but I think all of this information is invaluable, regardless of the genre. Thank you, thank you.

  7. Love this blog Rachel, thank you for taking the time to write it and share with us newbies.

  8. I will defiantly be putting this post in my favorites great post very informative post thank you for the custom writing service