by Trice Hickman
I will never forget the day I started writing my first novel. I’d been plagued by writer’s block for years, but one sunny Wednesday morning in March 2004, I had a breakthrough! I sat at my computer and watched in amazement as words flowed like sweet water from my fingertips to the keyboard, filling up page after page with thoughts, emotions, and characters that had been living inside my head. I was so excited! I wrote every single day, and four months later my debut novel, Unexpected Interruptions, was complete! The feeling of accomplishment was euphoric! But very quickly the next step was in front of me—how to get my work published?
I had always thought that writing a book was the hard part…little did I know that the hardest part was yet to come—publishing it, and harder still, selling it.
I began researching how to get my book published. I studied the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing, and came to the conclusion that the traditional route was the way for me. So again, I did my research. I gathered the names of every literary agent, editor, and publisher whom I thought might be interested in my work, and I reached out to them. I waited with excitement for the offers to start pouring in. Well, letters started pouring in, but to my dismay, they weren’t offers to publish my manuscript. They were rejection letters.
Let me tell you, rejection really hurts!
“Did they really read my story?” I had wondered. “If they did, how could they have possibly turned me down?” That was the question I asked myself over and over, month after month as new rejection letters flooded into both my mailbox and inbox. Some were standard form letters with a generic let down, but some were personalized, stating hurtful words that temporarily halted my dream.
There’s a saying, “You haven’t loved until you’ve had your heart broken.” Well, you’re not a writer until you get your first rejection letter (or your first bad review, but that’s a discussion for another time). I basked in the grayness of a short-lived pity party, then I bounced back into action because I knew I had a few things on my side that beat rejection every time: belief, determination, perseverance, and faith!
I had spent long days and sleepless nights creating my characters and crafting their story. I believed in them. And I believed that if I could just get my book published, despite what had been said, someone would buy it. And if someone bought it they would read it and like it. And if they liked it they’d tell a friend, and that friend would tell another friend, and voila! I’d have a winner on my hands. I was determined to see my book in print, so I realigned my mission and set my sights on self-publishing.
Again, I did my research. I scoured the Internet for information. I purchased books to learn all I could about best practices and new industry trends. I attended workshops, seminars, book festivals, and literary conferences. I reached out to other authors and industry professionals. And most importantly, I developed a plan for publishing my book, complete with time sensitive tasks that I diligently followed. I set aside money from my paycheck every month and assembled a team of professionals who could help me execute my publishing plan. Finally, after nearly three years of preparation, I resigned from my job and started my own publishing company, Platinum Books, and released Unexpected Interruptions!
Just as I’ll never forget the day I started writing my first book, I’ll never forget that chilly Tuesday afternoon in October 2007, when my books arrived at my doorstep, hot from the printer. Holding the finished product in my hand was euphoric! But again, the next step was staring me in the face—how would I sell the book?
I had done a modest print run of 2,500 copies, and through marketing and pre-promotion efforts I managed to pre-sell 1,000 books before the novel was released (NOTE: this was before e-books really took off). Next, my goal was to sell the other 1,500 books and go from there. I contacted as many people as I could who had pre-ordered directly through my website and asked for their feedback. If they enjoyed the book, I asked them to please spread the word for me. Now this is where perseverance and having a plan paid off. I hit the road on a book tour that I had organized months in advance. My corporate sponsor, GODIVA Chocolatier (the main character in my book loved GODIVA, so I approached them about sponsoring a few of my signings), provided treats at some of my events that enticed readers to come out and join me. In less than thirty days I had sold all my books and was placing an order for another print run.
Three years and two additional books later, I was approached by Kensington Publishing Corp. (Dafina Books) to purchase the publishing rights for all three of my originally self-published titles. Kensington will re-release each of my books, providing broader distribution that will allow me to reach a much larger readership. My debut novel, Unexpected Interruptions, was re-released March 29, 2011, and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly!
I was so excited, and the amazing thing was that Kensington did not change my story; even the cover art remained the same. Yes, the same book that everyone had turned down now received a nod from an industry giant.
The faith I had in my work led me down a bumpy road that turned into a wonderful journey; one in which I wouldn’t change a thing!
Tips for Aspiring Writers
1. Read—Reading is critical to the writing process. It broadens the mind and expands your creativity. I don’t know any good writers who aren’t avid readers.
2. Study the craft—Writing is an art form. Study it. Practice it. Take classes.
3. Write every day—There are times when this won’t be possible, but if you endeavor to write something every day (it could be a sentence, a paragraph, or a couple of pages) you will complete your book before you know it. You will also become a better writer because you will improve with practice.
4. Tell a good story—Develop your characters and craft your storyline so that readers will be interested in what you have to say. Make sure that your beginning, middle, and end flow into one seamless, page-turning tale!
Whether you decide to self-publish or go the traditional route, here are some helpful tips.
* Research, research, research. I can’t stress how important it is to arm yourself with as much information as possible. Don’t rely on other authors to hold your hand through the process or tell you what to do to get your book published. Every writer’s journey is different, so chart a path that works for you.
* Network, network, network. Attend book conferences and literary events. These venues are great opportunities to meet readers, authors, and industry professionals who can prove to be valuable assets as you build your career.
* Develop a plan and execute it. Be sure to include a realistic time line and budget to support a successful book campaign (again, do this whether you are traditionally or self-published).
* Know your target audience. If you think your book is for everyone, you’re wrong! Dead wrong! Define your primary audience, i.e.; age, profession, gender, socio-economic demographic, interests, etc.
* Once you have defined your target audience, determine their book buying habits and make sure your book is available to them in the format they desire. Do your readers purchase books at book festivals, conferences, or other literary events? Do they buy in stores, on-line, or through e-reading devices?
To learn more about Trice Hickman and her books, please visit her website at http://www.tricehickman.com. If you’re interested in taking your first step toward becoming a published author, please contact Trice for a one-on-one coaching session by clicking on the Writer’s Corner page on her site.
NEW RELEASE: Looking for Trouble by Trice Hickman
(Oct 29, 2013) Available wherever books are sold!
Pick up a copy today: http://amzn.com/0758287232