Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lessons Learned on the Publishing Trail.

Welcome to The Writing Bomb, where authors of every kind are appreciated and cared for like a calf at the teat!

As part of The REUNION Blog Tour, I’d like to share just a few things that I’ve learned about writing, my expectations and the lies that we writers often tell ourselves. If you’re a newer author, an indie author, or considering taking the plunge for the first time into the winding river of the digital publishing age, you’ll want to hang around and soak up some of my thoughts.

To begin with, you need to know that I published my first book, Killing the Giants, with Outskirts Press in 2009. Other than selling a couple hundred print copies, mostly to family and friends, I had a pretty miserable book launch experience. I had less control than I thought I would, I sold fewer books than I anticipated and I knew nothing about ebooks and platforms and blog tours. Yes, I was a literary virgin and I bled miserably.

Two Years Later...

Over the last two years, I’ve learned so much about publishing, marketing, but more importantly, I’ve learned that I’ve had expectations of an industry that does not bend to my wishes. Without boring you with the usual “get edited and a good book cover” redundancy, I’d like to share 5-Fascinating Facts I’ve learned that might help you with your book launch, and prepare you for an industry that’s filled with vipers and wild stallions.
      A Crash is Coming! If you’re a new or newer author without a platform, be prepared for a sales crash soon after your release. No matter how hard you market your book before you let that baby fly, you will only be able to reach so many people. Think about your family, friends, twitterverse, and facebook cult members. You may have hundreds or even thousands of peeps cheering for you, but they will only take your sales so far. A couple hundred sales on day one are great, but they will not keep your sales rolling. The rest is up to you. The days or weeks after a book launch to a newer author can feel like you’re the Grand Marshall of a parade who walked ten miles into an uninhabited desert, only to discover that you’re waving and smiling at no one. 
I don’t mean to discourage or scare you away from publishing your work. I do, however, want to prepare you for the rocky road ahead. Just be tough, and wait. There are a few affordable and effective marketing tools that can propel your book into the next level and breaking through the plateau, but that’s another post all together. 

         Dig Deep. If you’re self-published (pay to publish), indie author or published with a small press, remember that you will be responsible for almost all of your marketing. There will be no paid book tours, no TV ads, and little to no Internet marketing other than your publishers web page, mostly viewed by other authors looking to publish their book.  Dig your heels in deep, and plan to work hard, filling every extra minute of your time doing something to promote your novel while simultaneously writing your next book.

      Grow Gator Skin. No matter what your expectations are, be prepared for a let down. Grrrr. I hate to say that, especially because I’m usually very positive, but I have to be honest about this. I can’t be sure, but I’d bet that most authors have dreams and fantasies about the sales of their book and how much everyone is going to love it. But when the reviews and sales trickle in slower and less enthusiastic than expected, we can hit a wall…a very hard and dark wall, bringing some to the point of depression.

My point is this: Adjust your expectations and remember that you’re one of thousands of authors who picked that special day to publish and you will be competing against all of them, like a single droplet of water floating amidst Niagara Falls. Don’t take it personal. That’s just the way it is. Most writers begin to grow a hardened layer of skin at this point, an undesirable yet necessary part of authorship.

 More is Merrier. Prepare for the long haul. As you may have read, J.A. Konrath, Scott Nicholson and other successful indie authors agree that the key to indie success is having a damn good book, and having lots of them. As a newer author you generally have two choices: market yourself into a bestseller (i.e. going broke on an ad campaign), or prepare for the long haul. Many of these bestselling indie authors did not enjoy their successes until they had several books out. This is the “Getting more shelf space” concept, which means the more books you have on the digital bookshelf, the more visible you will become. Again, that will take time. Plan on this when you begin publishing that first or second novel. It will save you a lot of pain and Prozac.

Build a Scaffold. Remember that your first book is an opportunity to build your platform, a scaffold to reach your dreams, not necessarily a shortcut to fortune and fame. Just because Joanna Penn wrote a top rated fiction on her first try, doesn’t mean you will, even if your book is head and shoulders better than Pentecost.

This won’t be the last time you hear me say this, but I think writing is one of the most demanding professions around.  Writing and publishing is tough and it will test your character. As I stated in an article I wrote for The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog, Many great books have risen to the top and then sank to the bottom of the literary ocean, rusting and watching the crabs walk over their pages.

All I’m saying is… it’s best to prepare yourself for the ups and downs of the publishing experience before you come buzzing into an empty circus arena. And it is a circus. There are wonderful people who will help you along your journey, but also a few mean spirited folks as well. So wrap yourself with a breathable coat of thick skin and get that book published! But don’t stop there; write the next one and the next one and the next one until publishing becomes more about your full line of books than your breakout novel.

Of course there’s always room for a literary anomaly, and I hope you are that author. For the rest of us, as in the hundreds of thousands of the rest of us, we must ride our books like wild stallions, not knowing which way they may go, but carefully plotting the course for the long ride ahead. BOOM!

-Jeff Bennington
Author of REUNION



  1. Good advice, especially the gator skin. On another note, I can't help but pity the model in the cow shot. You know she wasn't paid much to do that.

  2. Wow this is the best advice I've heard about self publishing. I wish it had been around in February when I first self published. I have experienced all of these things, though I gave in to the bad feelings. Thanks for this post. SmithEClaire turned me on to you BTW.

  3. Hi Jeff!
    thank you for sharing such wonderful insight to your publishing adventures! You've got a lot of great advice!

  4. I agree 100% on the difficulty of writing as a profession. It makes my day job (Software Engineering) look easy. But I wouldn't trade it for the world..

  5. Hi Ev, Sandra, Kate and Aaron!
    Thanks for dropping by, As usual, I'm so glad that I could encourage you and provide helpful advice. Have a great week and check out the daily blog stops I'm making this week. To see the schedule go to

  6. Okay, I swear I hit "Post Comment" so if this shows up as duplicate, I'm so sorry.

    Thanks for the link on twitter to your blog. I've bookmarked you so I can return and learn more. I'm not sure I'm ready for indy publishing yet, but the traditional route is kicking my butt (the agent I've been working with this past 10 months emailed and said she was quitting the literary agency industry. She said the publishing industry is in freefall and it's becoming near impossible to sell anything to publishing houses). So, the interest in self publishing. The idea of it makes me nervous.

  7. This is reality. This is true. So well said. I think at my age (71) I can handle it. I might not have been able to when I was younger.

    Writing IS the most difficult profession. There are MUCH easier ways to make money (if that's what we want) as Orson Scott Card said. But most of us write because we like to write, and we are eternal optimists. Maybe, just maybe our wonderful book might light up the hemisphere. One can dream--but remember it's only a dream. Keep writing and writing. The best advice I've read lately from a man named Jeff Bennington whom I just found out has a wonderful family that's number one on his list.

    I just bought a digital copy of Reunion. Sorry I can't afford to buy the print copy right now. But if loads of people bought digital--well, it adds up! I'm behind in writing reviews and in reading the books I've bought for my Kindle, but when I read your book I'll review it on Goodreads and link to it from my blog.
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

  8. Hi Angela Thanks for persevering...a quality you have no doubt mastered as a writer! I don't blame your agent for quiting. She's right-- they're not buying. That is to say, if they didn't buy my book, WHAT"S LEFT? All kidding aside, I do hope you find a home somewhere. But f you go indie, you'll have to put in nearly as much time marketing as you do writing, unfortunately. But it's worth it!

    Ann, Two things...thanks for buying a copy of REUNION...and thanks for stopping by. Someone once said, "It's the hard that makes it good." I have always believed that. Looking forward to the review!


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