It's here! Ghost of Lost Eagle is done and will be released on Amazon, July 10th.
What has the experience been like?
I can't speak for all authors, but this journey for me has been full of trials and tribulations. It turns out that writing and editing the story was easy compared to preparing it for publication, building the marketing infrastructure and coordinating the vast array of "things-to-do" before the book even hits the market. Here's the abridged version of my experiences so far:
1) Writing - As you know, everything begins with writing a book. Ghost of Lost Eagle is a western romance with an important paranormal element. It was a blast to write. The whole experience of researching the Old West in 1875 was fascinating and educational. Studying Native American lore, and then, making it come alive in the story, was challenging and fun. As characters evolved through the story, they almost demanded certain surprises in the ending. Nothing could be more fun.
2) Polishing the Stone - Beta readers are the difference between a good story and a polished story. They turn the jagged stone into the polished diamond, and MY beta readers are the best! I owe much to them for the critical comments, suggestions and inspiration they provided. This story grew from its initial manuscript to a vibrant tale, complete with fleshed-out characters and complex storyline, thanks to their feedback.
3) What now? This is the uncomfortable point where an author shifts from the art of storytelling to the business of putting books into readers' hands. The first thing I did was to build a cover. It started out as a fun project and morphed into my own little hell. Each member of the story screamed, "Put me on the cover!" The Indian ghost and spirit-guide lone wolf demanded cover space. One night, I even dreamed about those suckers . . . the writer's own creations haunting him. (Hmm, does that sound like the beginning of another story?) Anyway, Tuck and Sass, the two main characters, wanted the cover all for themselves. My problem was that the story would not be possible without all these personalities.
4) When a writer has a book and a cover ready, the next job is marketing...right? Wrong! There's a bunch of infrastructure needed to successfully promote a book. I did not know the extent of "stuff" I needed to do. First, there needs to be a website for the author, a place where people can read about the writer's books, background, ongoing announcements and to build a "presence" as an author. Second, social media is critical to selling books in today's world. I had to build a Facebook author page, set up a reliable email that can be accessed from any computer, establish a Twitter "friend-list" of reliable people who will help to spread announcements and sign up with additional social media like Google+, LinkedIn, GoodReads and WattPad. All this infrastructure should be in place before marketing could begin. I did not know how to accomplish all these things, but a wonderful friend/fellow author stepped in to save my sorry cyber-inept ass.
5) Done. Can I release my book now? Nope. Before a book is released, there needs to be "buzz" created about it. There's nothing worse for an author's morale than to release a book and see no sales other than purchases by mom, sis and a couple best friends. Before starting that promotional engine, there is one more critical task that needs to be completed. ARC (Advance Reader Copy) books are free books given out before the release date to selected people. Those special people, in turn, agree to read the story and provide honest reviews for Amazon and sites like Goodreads and Wattpad. Who do you pick? People you trust. Professionals who review new books. Bloggers who review and promote new stories. This means the book has to be in final form BEFORE it can be sent out to them. It is essential that the book have reviews available on the day it goes "live" to help people decide to buy the book.
Another surge of effort will produce those finished Amazon MOBI and protected PDF files for the ARC readers. For an experienced author, it's probably a three hour job. For a neophyte like me, it would take days . . . even weeks. Fortunately, I had the wonderful assistance of my aforementioned best friend/author. I could not have done it without her. By the way, I'd love to give her public credit, but she's shy and asked me not to. Anyway, this all takes place at least three weeks before the "Release Date" to allow time for reading and posting reviews.
6) So, the MOBI and PDF files went out to the ARC readers and I set a release date. What's next? Now, it's finally time to begin the pre-release hype. Tweets, comments on Facebook and notices on my website are getting the process started. Tweets about what? Easy. Announce the release date, price and story summary with links to my website, author page, email and other social media. What else needs to be done?
7) "Release Party" - If you are wondering what a release party is, you're in good company. I had heard the term before but wondered how I serve punch and cupcakes over the internet. I admit to being perplexed. My friend/mentor explained how to set it up. Turns out, it's not nearly as daunting as I imagined. In fact, it looks like it will be a lot of fun. Online games include a cyber scavenger hunt, a book story Q&A and a community chain-writing story (my favorite) and will run with a series of prizes. The prizes include free e-books, autographed book-cover posters, gift cards to Amazon and a special grand prize. I chose to do two book release parties. One, the day of the book release (July 10), will have an Ask-the-Author component, special back story releases and prizes. The second will be four days later on Sunday, July 14. It is the Grand Release Celebration and will be more comprehensive (with prizes), as well as a special Top Prize.
8) What happens next? My official release is five days away. I am getting excited. My job now is to send out announcements of the Release Parties and to follow through with my ARC readers to get as many initial reviews as possible for the release day. It seems to take me about three hours a day to get all my chores done. My marketing advisors and a couple book bloggers tell me there will be even more responsibilities after the book starts selling.
I am a bit overwhelmed by all this hoopla, infrastructure and time-demanding social media. Along the way, I hired a marketing company that is supposed to schedule me for a "blog tour", tweet blasts to over 100K people, interviews and some other things that I don't yet understand. I'll learn as I go.
The simple truth is, I just want to be a writer. I'm not enjoying the business side of being an author, but if I want success, there is no other choice. Writing is an art. Publishing is a business. Commercial success is a combination of both. I must develop skill in both, if I want lots of readers to enjoy my stories. I do.
Well, it's time for my cheap plug, so please forgive me. I would love to have you join me at my Release Party on July 10, or better yet, come win the special prize on Sunday, July 14th at the Grand Release Celebration. Thanks, for indulging my personal pitch, and I hope to see you there. Send your friends, too. It'll be fun.