Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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April 18, 2016

3 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Selling

The “things I wish I’d known” blog posts fascinate me. As writers, we’re always looking for an inside secret on succeeding in this crazy life we’ve taken on. We want to know what other writers have discovered so that we can side-step those blunders.

But there comes a point, especially if you’ve been part of writers groups for some time and followed the industry on social media, that the “things I wish I’d known” posts no longer hold any new revelations. We’ve heard it all before, right?

So I was all happy-smug after I sold and skipped down the flower patch toward becoming a published author. I knew what to expect. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think it was going to be smooth sailing from here, but I’d been listening and taking notes when writer friends talked about their experiences.

And yet, here I am scratching my head over the things I wish I’d known …

1) Querying gets harder.

You thought you were done with queries after securing an agent? I did. Sort of. My agent, after all, is the one who’s submitting to editors. What I didn’t anticipate was sending requests for author blurbs. Who did I think did this? The Blurb Fairy maybe.

Okay, not really. I don’t believe in fairies (I do, however believe in unicorns but that’s a different post). This was one of those knew-it-but-was-in-denial cases. Querying agents wasn’t a problem for me (if you didn’t think I was a wee off after that unicorn comment, this sealed the deal, didn’t it?!). And I wasn’t nervous when my agent submitted to editors. Why? Because they are looking at my submission from a business perspective. A rejection from an agent or editor isn’t personal, it’s a reflection of whether they believe they can sell that particular product.

But readers are evaluating your book from a different place, a personal place. And that makes it a wee bit scarier. So when the time came to send out requests for authors to blurb my upcoming release, I freaked out. I mean paper-bag-holy-crap freak out.

I know, I know … if I can’t handle this, how am I going to handle reader reviews. Easy – we’re talking two different audiences. My writing won’t appeal to everyone and I’m okay with that. Reading is subjective. There will be readers who post ugly reviews give me one or two stars for whatever reason. Hopefully more people who pick up my book will love it than hate it.

Authors, however, are my tribe. These are the people who know what it takes to write a book and get through the publishing process. These are the people who I admire and fan-girl over. But the idea that one of them will read my book and wonder how the hell they got roped into reading and blurbing, sent me into hives. I don’t want them to think I’m a total hack.

Here’s the thing, the writing community is the most generous group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. And once I got my head out of the paper bag and sent the emails, I realized how crazy that fear was. It’s still harder than sending queries to agents, but not as scary as I allowed myself to first believe.

2) My face out there. OUT THERE!

One of the first things I do when I pick up a book is look at the back page or the dust jacket to see the author photo. So when I first signed with my agent, I added “author photos” to my to-do list. Except that I HATE having my picture taken. I look awful in photos. Just … gahhhhhh!

12994424_864731150305859_5143848933451465812_nI suggested using a photo of my cat staring at my laptop instead (he’s way more photogenic). That request was denied. So I pulled ideas of pictures I liked and ones I wasn’t as crazy about. I researched photographers. I thought through location ideas. We tried a few different locations – inside, outside. I did the adult thing and made others decide what worked best. Guess what? It was actually fun. Now I’m saying that before I’ve actually seen the final photos, but I survived and I’m not traumatized from the experience (yet – check back after I’ve looked at the pictures).

Still, the thought of someone picking up my book, looking at the back and seeing my face … oy! Seriously, can we use the cat? How about a unicorn?

3) Writing the novel was the easy part.

The second thing I do with any book, is read the acknowledgements page. Am I the only one who reads this before actually reading the book?

When an author friend posted a picture of my book as a bound manuscript, I squealed, “it’s real, it’s a book,” then rubbed my hands together because now I get to write the acknowledgments page. I’ve been fantasizing about this since the first draft!

I opened a new document in Word, and … Major, massive memory constipation.

This book took two years to write, revise, and submit. It went through countless drafts and several sessions with beta readers. I’ve whimpered to so many author friends during that time and there have been so many amazing people who supported and encouraged me. Of course I’d remember every. Single. Person. Except I’m not. There are names at the tippy tip top of my brain refusing to come forward.

Lesson learned folks … every person who makes a difference in your WIP, write them down on a page in your project notebook (or however you organize your manuscript ideas). Because writing a 300-page manuscript is so much easier on the nerves than pulling together the 1 page acknowledgements section.

Those are my Orly-meets-reality moments. 🙂
I’d love to hear yours.

About Orly

orly1.jpgOrly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world where she spent roughly sixteen (cough) years working in the space industry. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats. She is a co-founder and past president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She is rep’d by Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency LLC.

Orly’s debut, The Memory of Hoofbeats, will be released by Forge in 2017.

You can find her on Twitter at @OrlyKonig, on Facebook at OrlyKonigAuthor, or on her website, www.orlykonig.com.

30 comments on “3 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Selling”

  1. Ah ha! The acknowledgement page nightmare! My husband told me early on to keep a list--who thought I could forget any one of those amazing friends who read for me? I recently self-published my first novel and put together my first acknowledgement page. Then I'd wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. Is so and so on it? Did I remember so and so helped me? So far, I wake up and check and they are there, but it's not over!
    I can relate to the author photo, too. Mine was outside on Cape Cod where my novel takes place. On the hottest day of the summer! I have 46 shots of me. But, as you said, it still wasn't as bad as I imagined.
    Now I'm in the marketing nightmare. But it's all worth it!

    1. Isn't it amazing the things we make ourselves nuts over? 🙂
      But yes, it is all worth it!!

  2. LOL...I didn't include my photo in my self-published book because I felt no one would believe a 71 year old gal writing truisms about my 18 months on 3 different dating dates.
    They were brutally honest and very funny. THEN someone said "No one uses their real photo."

    1. You made me laugh, Jackie!
      I always look at author photos and wonder what the real person actually looks like. It's become a game for when I go to author events. 🙂

  3. I remember having chatted with the secretary at a sheriff's office near Alligator, NC, to make sure I knew what car their deputies used. I had a first name, figuring I'd call again once I was writing my acknowledgements. I did. She was gone. And no, there'd been no one with that first name I'd jotted down. Perhaps I meant this other person?

    Hit. Head. On. Desk. So, yeah, my note taking of names (and not merely facts) has become more accurate. Because I told that woman (whoever she was) that I'd acknowledge her, and now I'm found out... I hope she forgives the generic thank-you instead.

    1. I STILL fall into the trap of assuming I'll remember something. Why???!!!!!!

      I'm sure she'll forgive!

    1. That's interesting, Deb. I didn't put things off because I doubted. I just avoided thinking about them because they were terrifying. 🙂

  4. It's always good to read that someone besides me cringes at the thought of having to submit a photo. I was always that person who wanted to be taking the photo, not in the photo. I, too, hate to have my photo taken and I think that discomfort comes across in the photo, making me hate it more. A vicious cycle! If I ever get to the published stage with my WIP, it will be a dreaded part of the process for me.

    And I hadn't even thought of keeping track of people for the acknowledgements. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Here's a tip on photos, Beverly ... find a photographer and a location that you can relax with. I talked to quite a few photographers until I found someone who I didn't feel like I had to be "on" for. I even did test shots with a couple of different photographers. It was pretty clear when I felt comfortable and when I wasn't.

      1. Excellent idea! I'll remember that when (or if) this WIP makes it to publication. ...And as someone else pointed out, the author bio is another dreaded task. While I have a degree, it isn't in the fine arts, creative writing, etc. And even though I have had an interesting career with state government, it's mostly my talent at lying...I mean...creating stories that always pointed me toward writing. ...But guess my author bio wouldn't sound as impressive if I bragged on my ability to lie with a poker face, even if did come in handy working undercover. 😛

  5. For sure the acknowledgments, but just like an awards show, you'll inevitably miss someone. I've decided I'm sticking with the same picture FOREVER, since having it done was pure torture. I'll always be forty-something that way.

    For me, thought, what was really hard was the dedication page. Really. On my first novel, I knew all along I was dedicating it to my mom for a million reasons, but on my second I wrestled with it. The editor was bugging me for it and I was still flipflopping.

    I wanted to dedicate it to my husband, but that seemed almost inappropriate given the story (girls' weekend). Dedicating it to one friend over another was impossible, but dedicating it to 'all my friends' seemed wimpy. In the end, I dedicated it to my husband with a caveat (that I agonized over). and guess what? I gave him his copy almost a month ago and he still hasn't noticed! Ahhhhhhhhh. Book comes out in May; I'm sure someone will tell him.

    1. The dedication page ... oy!!!!!!!! Another thing to stress about. Thanks for that. 😉

      I'll be curious to hear his reaction when he does finally notice.

  6. I tend to name a few people and then duck under 'and all those wonderful people on social media...without whom...etc. Mind, I also have to include a nod towards the Victorian writers without whom.... As a (now) self published author, I do struggle with the ratio of chat to promo. And getting blogs out there regularly. And I have this innate fear that if I disappear from Twitter for a day or so, nobody will remember who I am. *sigh* What are we like, eh? Good luck with the book....and the next book....

  7. Orly: Yes, yes, and YES! Especially the photos. I used to laugh at author photos that were clearly taken 20 years prior. Now I get it. As you age, the photos do NOT get better. I'm keeping my current one forever, and no one can make me do otherwise!!!!

    You're surviving the storm very well, my friend. I'll be standing by with the bag to breathe into on launch day!

    1. Can you please make sure that paper bag has a bottle of wine in it? I'll need it on launch day! 🙂

  8. Yes, to almost all these things. I can't speak to asking for blurbs since I haven't gotten to that particular task. I'm sure nausea and related involuntary regurgitation will be involved.

    I would add writing your author's bio. What, me interesting? I live a dull life, just me and a cat as crotchety as her human servant. As another writing friend wrote: [I] would rather poke her eye out than write a bio. I can only agree with her. So would I.

    1. The bio was indeed painful. I just pretended I was writing it about someone else. 😉

  9. The picture thing. That's my Achilles' heel, too, Orly. Glad your photo shoot went well. Can't wait to see the final pic!

  10. Oh yes, I check acknowledgements. And now, at the beginning of any project, I open a file called 'helpers' and add names of contributors along the way. One problem solved, the other two loom every time!

  11. I read somewhere that the acknowledgement page is really important because how and who you acknowledge gives readers a peek into who you really are and that readers want to know something about the author. I know I do. And your picture is already great.

  12. This is great! I'll add it to my important "to reread *if* everything else works out. 😉

  13. Before starting this writing game, I seldom if ever read anything but the novel. Now, I read the acknowledgments religiously. Thank you for the tip about starting a list. That's a good one.

    1. Now that you mention it, ditto ... I didn't read acknowledgements until I got interested in the idea of publishing either. 🙂

  14. True, all true, Orly. Who to thank is always a problem for me, simply because i ask so many questions. I find that sending a "thank you" email immediately does a couple of things: it says thanks (and people you interview do not understand the time lag between interview, writing, and publication unless they are also writers) and the email keeps a record of who to acknowledge. Excellent post! I bet you are counting the days until The Memory of Hoofbeats comes out!

  15. You make me chuckle! Your post makes me *so* glad I've got a document in Scrivener where I'm collecting names of everyone who has helped me.

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