What we learned in our quest to publish – Part VI

We’re very excited with our decision to self-publish, but because we didn’t know we had other options when we started this process, we thought we had to try and find any agent and go the traditional publishing route. Because of this, some could say that we’ve wasted time and lost money by not publishing our first book sooner. By the time we’ve completed everything and published our book, it’ll be over two years since we started this endeavor. And while we endured a lot of heartache and struggles, we wouldn’t trade our experience for an earlier publication date, because we have learned so much during this process. So, this is for all you aspiring authors out there.  Learn from our mistakes, so you don’t have to waste time trying to find an agent or publishing house and you can move on to self-publishing your book right away. This is just our advice to you. In no way do we know everything.

Wrapping up what we’ve learned, we only have two more pieces of advice for you. They are both very different from each other but important.

1. Start saving money right away.
Maybe you’re a saver, maybe you’re not, but our advice to you is to start saving ASAP. Self-publishing is not cheap. There’s your book cover, editing, blog tours, query services, writers associations, P.O. boxes, website domains, and all that other stuff I didn’t mention.  You have to pay for everything up front and don’t get paid until later. And with that, you don’t know how much you’re going to make, so any money saved can be helpful.
If you start early, you don’t have to save much either. Between the two of us, we put away $25 a week for about five months and saved over $500. Saving money isn’t something we learned from trying to find a literary agent, but if we had started saving way back in 2012 when we began this adventure, we would have saved almost $3000 by now!

Now there are two of us so we are able to save $25 a week, but even if you can save $25 every two weeks (on payday), it will still add up.

2. Rejection
As with any form of art, you’re in a subjective business, and it is statistically impossible for everyone to like your work. And there is nothing more heartbreaking than your first rejection. Even though you knows it’s going to come and you’ve prepared yourself mentally, it still hurts. And it’s not as if rejection ever gets easier, but you get used to it and learn to accept it. You also realize that it’s not personal. The more you hear “no,” the more you come to see that it honestly is not personal.
And the “nice” thing about trying to find an agent or publisher is, everyone gets rejected. Okay, almost everyone. If we were, let’s say, Miley Cyrus, and we wrote a book, it wouldn’t take us too long to find an agent or publisher, because regardless of what I wrote, it’s going to sell.  But if you’re an everyday average Jane, like us, you’re going to be rejected. And you’re going to be rejected multiple times.
So, will that first one star review hurt? Ohhhh yeah, of course! But getting our query letter rejected numerous times has definitely built up our armor some, and as long as all our reviews aren’t negative, we’ll be fine. Eventually…

What we learned in our quest to publish – Part V

We’re very excited with our decision to self-publish, but because we didn’t know we had other options when we started this process, we thought we had to try and find any agent and go the traditional publishing route. Because of this, some could say that we’ve wasted time and lost money by not publishing our first book sooner. By the time we’ve completed everything and published our book, it’ll be over two years since we started this endeavor. And while we endured a lot of heartache and struggles, we wouldn’t trade our experience for an earlier publication date, because we have learned so much during this process. So, this is for all you aspiring authors out there.  Learn from our mistakes, so you don’t have to waste time trying to find an agent or publishing house and you can move on to self-publishing your book right away. This is just our advice to you. In no way do we know everything.

!. Avoid info dump and back story
Have you ever read a book, and right away at the beginning, there were just too many facts about the main character? Soon you become bored and just want the story to start. That is because the author might have made the mistake of info dumping.
If you’ve read any advice on writing, you’re going to see everyone tell you the same thing. Avoid info dumping. Like most first time authors, you’re probably going to think you’re not guilty of making this mistake. And maybe you aren’t. But the majority of us do and often don’t know it until an agent sends you a rejection saying (if you’re lucky) you have too much back story.
You probably already know what back story is and if you avoid too much of it, you’ll avoid info dumping. The hard part is knowing what is too much and what is not enough? After an agent’s intern kindly told us we had too much back story in the beginning, we went through and edited our manuscript. We gutted the thing. Some time later, we entered a Writer’s Digest webinar and were told that we didn’t have enough info. So as with anything else, balance is the key.
Unfortunately, there is not magic formula for this. But our best advice is:
1. Is it needed to further the story?
Example: “I walked into work.” Is it the character’s first day? Do they work in a prison? Did they get the job but have no idea what they’re doing? It’s okay to give some back story here, like the character got the job because they lied on their application about having experience when they really have no idea what they’re doing, but they did it to feed their five children. (Also, going back to part four of our advice, this would show the reader more about the character, like their ethics, why they might be nervous, and why they’re desperate, rather than just telling the reader they have these flaws or problems.)
2. Is the reader going to pause and have questions if you don’t explain?
Example: “I was shocked to see my neighbor in my yard.” Is your neighbor a recluse? Do you live in the country and your nearest neighbor a mile away? Why is the main character shocked? Your reader might live in a townhome with neighbors all around, so they’re not going to assume your character lives on acres of land.
These are two helpful ways of knowing it’s okay to put back story in. Just make sure you only tell the reader what they need to know and try to avoid going on and on.
Here are two different ways of giving the reader with the same information, one with info dump and one without.

“I was born at midnight, sixteen years ago to a single mother who hated me. I always knew she felt that way because she never got tired of telling me so, especially if she was drunk. I want to tell you it didn’t hurt my feelings, but it did.”
Are you nodding off yet? Now, how about this?
“‘Stacy, get your ass down here and pick up your shit,’ my mother yelled with a drunken slur.
I sighed, not wanting to face my mother when she was like this. I walked quietly down the stairs in hopes she had turned her attention to the TV as she did most nights.
I peaked around the corner and saw my mom facing away from me on the recliner. I tiptoed to pick up my dancing gear. I had almost made it back to the stairs when she turned around.
‘So, you decided to listen to me for once?’
I reluctantly turned around. ‘I always listen to you.’
My mom snickered. ‘Yeah right?’
There was no use arguing with her when she was like this. I always lost.
‘You’re right, Mom. I’ll try harder.’
‘You better. You’re lucky I let your worthless ass live here.’ Maybe because I was only sixteen and by law she was responsible for me? ‘I should kick you out. I don’t know why the hell I ever had you. I can’t stand to see your face.’
I turned away, hoping she couldn’t see me cry.”
Does that sound better? Do you see how the information is sprinkled into the story amongst all the action? Does it make it easier to read?
It’s definitely not an exact science, but hopefully this helps.

2. Use active voice versus passive voice
This is a very important part of writing fiction, and it’s something you need to know. However, it’s not something we explain the best, and we even sometimes struggle with it (because most people don’t think about active voice when they’re emailing their friends or writing a Facebook post). So rather than trying to give you advice, or copying someone else’s, we’re going to direct you to Grammar Girl. She gives wonderful explanations and great examples of each. She also has a lot of other good tips, so keep her in mind when you’re writing.