Writing about Writing

Archive for March, 2014

Name, Genre, and Finding Betas

The last time we talked, I provided a list of steps that I needed to take to get my book ready to publish.  Since then, I’ve trucked through the first few steps, but I may have gotten hung up on something I really didn’t expect.

First, we’ll talk about the small progress I’ve made.

The Name

The idea for this book came to me about 3 years ago.  I had just finished writing a short story about a man lost at sea.  I really liked the tone and wanted to explore those kinds of emotions in more depth.  One night I was walking home from work and a plan began to coalesce in my mind.  I wanted 3, maybe 4 characters.  They would be struggling through major emotional upheaval, and I had a great climax in mind that would bring all their stories together.  I even had two perfect characters I had created in the past, one from a prose-poem I had written in University, the other I had created while listening to a song by the band Bloodsimple.  The story would essentially be about the darkness in our lives, so I called it: Darkness.

As the idea took shape and I began to work on an outline, the story became not just about our darkness, but about emotional recovery from traumatic events and dealing with our past.  The name Darkness had always been meant as a placeholder, but as time went on it became harder to think of the book as anything else.  I was attached to it, and the idea behind it, even though the book had outgrown my temporary title.  One idea was to name it Through the Darkness, as a way to represent the emotional journey the characters take.  But a quick search on Amazon.com revealed at least 3 other books with the same name, so I scrapped that one.  Then my good friend Colin came up with an idea, and it sounded perfect.  It represented exactly what I wanted, and a search on Amazon came up with zero other books with the same name.  So barring any drastic changes during the editing process, I believe I’ve settled on a title.

I present to you: What Dark Passages

The Genre

Through this entire process, I never really thought about the genre.  I just wrote the book I wanted to write without worrying about fitting it into a specific genre.  Now that I have to classify it, though, I started to wonder just what exactly did I write?

I went to a couple websites that are supposed to help with classification.  One of them does a short quiz.  It listed my book as a Suspense Thriller.  I laughed and moved on.  Eventually I decided I would go to Amazon.com and search the categories to find out where mine fits.  I figured if I could find similar style books, then that should be my genre, right?

After a while, I started to zero in on Literary Fiction.  But I thought, if I’m selling my book on Amazon.com, I don’t want it to just be grouped in with 45,000 other books, I need to narrow it down even more.  And within the remaining sub-categories I spied the word “Psychological”.  I clicked it open and perused the available books and theme list.  That’s when I knew I had found my genre.

Genre: Psychological Literary Fiction

Beta Readers

I have to admit, when I was coming up with the list of challenges I would face “Finding Beta Readers” wasn’t at the top of the list.  I had this idea in my head where I would post my information in some of the various Beta Reader groups out there and helpful people would line up and everything would be just rosy.  Unfortunately, I was overestimating the interest my work would garner…by a lot.

There could be any number of factors involved, of course.  I tried to be very upfront with the mature nature of my novel, because I don’t want anyone surprised (in a bad way) by the content.  Could that have scared people away?  Or it’s possible I didn’t do a good enough job getting people interested.  This weekend I wrote up a proper description, the type of thing you’d see on a website or on the back of a novel and added it to one of my posts.  I’m hoping it helps.

I have other steps I can work on while I’m waiting for this to happen, but if I don’t find betas, it will eventually stall out the entire process.  Impartial eyes are one of the most important aspects of editing, because as much as I trust and value the opinions of my close friends and family, it’s impossible for them to be completely unbiased.

So now I’m reaching out to the WordPress community.  If you, or anyone you know, are interested in beta reading an 80,000 word Psychological Literary Fiction novel, give me a shout!  It just so happens I have one right here.  I may be biased, but I think it’s a pretty good read.

I can be reached at: journeyofawannabewriter@gmail.com

UPDATE 3/24/13 – One of the hardest things to have these days is patience.  I was so excited to get my book out there that, I admit, I was feeling a little down at the initial lack of  interested being beta readers.  But if I’d had just a little more patience, I would have been writing a very different section.  As of now I’ve had 4 different people contact me about being beta readers, so the ball is officially rolling and I’m excited for the feedback to start coming in!

Here’s the book blurb:

Alex’s parents died when he was eight.  Since then, he’s been on the outside looking in, wondering what his life could have been…what it should have been.  Now, crushed by unbearable loneliness, he looks toward one, final solution.

Melissa is tired of being a victim.  She wants nothing more than to move on with her life.  But she is still haunted by the man who attacked her outside a club five years ago.  A man the police never found.  

Richard is a paramedic who made a mistake that cost a little girl her life.  Now, fresh off a lengthy suspension, he can’t avoid confronting the mistake he made.  At the same time, his marriage is coming apart at the seams, and the only comfort he can find is at the bottom of a bottle.

Joel has made mistakes.  Horrible mistakes.  But turning the tables on his abusive father and putting a bullet through his hand isn’t one of them.  Now his father, looking for revenge, has found him. There may never be redemption for Joel, but he has a family to worry about now, and he must protect them at all costs.


Next Steps

Finishing my draft felt great.  It was like getting a monkey off my back that had been crashing cymbals on my head for years.  I wanted to do this for so long, and now I’m finally done, right?

Not even close!

There are so many steps to go, the list is almost discouraging to look at.  I’m a writer, a creative guy, this stuff isn’t really my bag, ya know?  I avoid lists like I avoid fist-sized spiders.  But it needs to be done.  Lucky for me I have a partner who is good at lists, tasks, and getting the type of stuff done that I consider boring.  That doesn’t mean she’s going to do it for me, it just means she’s going to harass me until I do it.  This is a good thing because otherwise it would take me a lot longer to get these things done.

So how did I figure out the steps?  I’m fortunate because I’ve been able to draw from two sources on where to go from here.  First is the fantastic website IndiesUnlimited.  They just published a piece called I’ve Written a Book, How Do I Publish It?.  In it, they run through a sixteen step process on how to take your book from first draft to published book.  The information here is absolutely invaluable.

I was also extremely lucky in that the Federation of BC Writers held a self-publishing fair just this last weekend at the Vancouver Public Library.  Among the list of speakers was best-selling author Martin Crosbie, who gave a very positive and helpful talk about what has and hasn’t worked for him in the jungle that is Amazon.com.

So, what do I have to do?  I present to you, not necessarily in order, my list:

  • Confirm a name for the book.
  • Figure out what genre it fits into.
  • Write a short description/”elevator pitch”
  • Second round of edits.
  • Find beta readers, send book to them and await feedback.
  • Edit from beta reader feedback, then send to new batch of beta readers.
  • Edit again.  If I’m happy at this point, find a copy-editor and send to him/her.
  • Final round of editing.  Should be finished at this point.  Or should I send out Advanced Review Copies and do one last edit, if required?
  • Create Amazon.com author page.
  • Get an ISBN for both physical copy and ebook.
  • Prepare ‘front matter’.  Copyright.
  • Figure out the front cover.  What do I want it to look like?  Hire someone to do it or do it myself?
  • Do I want a barcode?
  • Format.  Can hire a professional formatter, or try and do it myself.
  • Upload ebook, check formatting works.  Order physical copy to review quality/format.
  • Publish.
  • Promote.  Promote.  Promote.
  • Promote some more.

Whew.  There we go.  No problem.

I will, of course, provide semi-irregular updates on what’s happening as it happens, or sometime after it happens, as always.  This is, without a doubt, the ‘not fun’ part of putting out a book.  But it is absolutely essential, and I’m looking forward to getting through it and learning everything I need to know so that future books (I *do* plan to keep writing, you know) are easier to publish.

Like any process – the first time is always the hardest.