I get a lot of questions about how to go about becoming an author, and specifically a self-published author, so I thought it would make sense to explain the basics here. The bottom line, however, is that there is no one right answer and every story goes differently. This is simply mine.
How it Started
Everyone wants to know if I always dreamed of being an author. I didn’t. I always loved books and reading, but I never thought this would be my path. I dreamed of running a team in an ad agency. I was actually doing just that when Bound by Duty took over my brain and sent me spinning into a place I’d never dreamed existed.
I was driving down I-80, heading from Des Moines to Omaha, when inspiration struck. I had just finished reading the Star-Crossed series, by Rachel Higginson (who I LOVE), and the thoughts kept popping up of what would have happened if the story had gone this way instead of that way, or if the main character had these powers instead of those powers. The next thing I know, the first chapter is writing itself in my head and Amelia and Aidan were born.
I went back to my hotel, wrote for four hours, sent the draft to a lifelong friend who responded by telling me in all caps that I had to finish this story. So, I did. It took me three months to finish the first draft. Then I let my good friends rip it to shreds and went through two vicious rounds of cutting, rewriting and editing. It was the fourth draft that went the professional editor I hired, and that is the one that would become my baby. Bound by Duty published July 23, 2014.
What You Need to Know
Everyone asks me what they need to do to become an author. I always respond with, “Write the book.” Nothing – literally, NOTHING – matters until you have a complete book in your hands. Once that first draft is done, it’s time to rip it apart. First drafts are always terrible, begging for more here or less there. Be prepared to let words you love go because they just aren’t right. Be ready for your characters to take you in nutty directions you didn’t outline and weren’t ready for. And be ready (and beg for) someone who will tell you during this phase all the places that things have gone wrong. Fix them now, don’t let reviewers take you apart for them later.
Hire an editor. I can’t say this enough. Unless your best friend/parent/grandma/whomever is a professional book editor, they are not qualified for the job. It’s hard to spend $500 on editing when you haven’t made a dime, but DO IT. The reviewers will thank you. Your ratings will thank you. You will be considered a legit author who invested in their work. And, they will help you grow. My development from book one to book two was huge, and I attribute that to my critique partner (the one who rips things apart) and my editor.
Invest in your cover. Don’t think that you can jump into PhotoShop, slap a stock image up and throw some words on it. You’ll look ridiculous and your book will lose all credibility before you even begin. There is a booming business of cover design out there and you can find someone in your price range. You may also have someone in your personal network who will offer to help for free or reduced cost. No matter what though, hear me when I tell you that covers sell books. Make sure yours is good.
Find a support system. I found an amazing writing group, by utter chance, and they have become my closest friends and writing confidants. We have learned this game together, promote each other and help build each other up when the going gets tough (because one-star reviews will always hurt). Find your tribe. Don’t be afraid to interact in this community, because the authors and bloggers out there are really amazing people and they are always willing to help someone out.
Be ready to invest in your dream. Being an author means being an entrepreneur. You are building a business and business takes investment. You need to buy bookmarks, print copies to give away, pay for ebooks to give away, swag for your readers, marketing opportunities and the list goes on. You have to be ready to invest in your own success, to take chances on things that may or may not have much ROI and give away as many books as humanly possible. Don’t fall victim to thinking that giving away books is reducing your sales. Giving away books is getting you reviews, it’s building word of mouth discussion about you, and if you’ve given them to bloggers (which you should) then they are telling an entire fan base of people about you. Bottom line – you’ll spend money to make money.
That’s the quick and dirty of how you get your start being an author. We could talk for days, but I wanted to give people an overview of how this journey started for me and the recommendations I can give on how to start yourself. I hope it helped!