Sunday, December 29, 2013

Overcoming Hurdles for Newbie Self-Published Authors

Since the early part of 2013, when I decided to put more effort into my writing and more effort into sharing my writing with others, I have come across many hurdles along the way that every new writer will most likely have to face in their journey as a newbie author.

The intent of this post is to share some of the hurdles I have encountered in the beginning with you and give you a little advice on how to get through them in your trek to become known, more widely read and/or published.

Hurdle #1

What do I write about?

You have decided to take the first step and write something.  Whether it is a poem, a short story, a novella, or a full blown epic novel, you have no idea what to write about.  I had this same problem of not knowing what to write about in the beginning, so I attempted to just write about nothing in particular.

The actual action of writing - pen to paper or fingers to keyboard - is a great way to get your mind flowing with ideas.  It does not matter if the ideas are not good, the fact remains that writing them down will get them out of your mind and out of the way.  This step will also determine what your writing genre will be and what you like to write about. 

To get over this first hurdle, just simply write whatever comes to your mind. Once you have written hundreds of words, most likely the cream will rise to the top and you will have some very good words and sentences written.  If not, keep writing ... the good stuff will manifest itself once the bad stuff gets out of the way.

Hurdle #2

Who will be the "name brand" I  will promote? 

This seems like an identity crisis question to some.  But it was not something I spent much time on in the beginning of this journey.

One day, after submitting my work to several websites and literary journals, I realized that maybe I would rather use an alias or use my initials instead of my first name as my writing nom de plume. 

Google and other search engines have an annoying way of keeping whatever name you associate with your work attached to the search criteria for years to come - this is something that is not easily "undone" in the digital age.

My best advice on this hurdle is to figure it out what your name brand is before you submit anything to anyone. 

Hurdle #3

Where do I let others see my writing?

This was a daunting question for me as well, so after I determined my writing genre (short stories), I Googled "short story submissions" to see what would come up.

There are thousands of short story contests, as well as world-renowned literary journals that are currently accepting submissions.  I started with the lesser known ones and submitted several of my short stories to them. This was strictly to test the waters and luckily, one editor (at Midlife Collage) liked one of my stories and gave it a chance to be read by a wider audience.

Another great way to keep your short story writing skills polished and have a little fun as well is to write flash fiction stories and submit them to contests.  There are tons of websites that have flash fiction contests, but the one I like the best is Indies Unlimited.  This was the very first place that I submitted several of my flash fiction stories (250 words or less) to and actually won a couple of their weekly contests. (CAVEAT - Do not blindly submit flash fiction or any other items to them, please seem "How Indies Unlimited Works" for further details.

To get past this hurdle, the best thing to do is to find places to submit your writing to that match the genre of your writing.

(If interested, please see the right hand side bar of this blog for several websites currently accepting submissions for various genres).

Hurdle # 4

How do I keep the momentum going? 

This is very tough and is the one hurdle that I had the most problems with. 

This sounds simple enough, but once you have a couple of "wins", you may get stuck in the high of success (however small that success may be) and put too much of your energy into getting those first few stories read by more people.

Focusing on promoting your work is okay to do -  if you remember to keep writing while you are marketing your previously written short story/poem/flash fiction items.  No new singer or musician wants to be a "one-hit wonder" and this holds true for new authors as well.

In the end, the answer to overcoming this hurdle is simply this - Keep writing. Period.

Hurdle # 5

When do I self-publish?

This is one of the most important questions to an indie author and one of the most important steps in this journey. The absolute worst thing a new author can do is to rush to publish their very first piece.

If you have not taken the time or effort needed to make sure your work is free of grammatical errors and edited properly, it is very evident to the readers and reviewers.

Some readers or reviewers will be kind and give you positive feedback, but others can be very hateful or spiteful and give you a bad review.  Either way, it is up to you to present your very best work as a first impression to your audience.  There is no second chance at a good first impression.

For this hurdle, the simplest answer that I have is this.  Publish when you are ready, or rather when your work is ready - not sooner.

A Closing Note

My hope is that this post will help the newest writers begin their journey.

If you have more advice for beginners or comments that would help newbie authors who plan to self-publish, please feel free to respond in the comments section below.

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