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A brief reflection on being an author

I’ve got to admit it. I’m struggling. I’ve finished the first draft of my second science fiction novel, Second Wave and I’m now in the editing mode. For me, this phase is the least pleasant. It’s a lot easier to tell a story than it is to go back and fine tune it.

For all of the advantages that the digital model of publishing has given the writer by freeing him or her from the traditional publishing house, there are two places where the model fails. The first is in the editing mode. I could hire an independent editor, but it would cost thousands — justifiably so, considering the work. For me to spend thousands on a book that may not find many readers would be a mistake. I already spend several hundred dollars on nice cover art, even though I don’t have any guarantee of recovering the money.

The second place the model encounters trouble is in marketing. I don’t have the funds to print thousands of books and distribute them to bookstores. Nor, do I have an infinite amount of time to work social media for so-called “free” promotion. It’s not “free” when it takes hours out of your day.

To summarize the digital model: I can write what I want and publish what I want and get a larger percentage of each sale rather than a tiny royalty. With that freedom come two major headaches: editing and marketing. Both of these suck up the author’s time and keep him from the main task of creative work. She can fish or cut bait, but not both at once.

I wish that I had a solution for these two problems. The best I’ve been able to do on editing is to order proof copies of my book from Create Space – it’s cheaper than printing the thing out on my laser printer – and read through them with a red pen in my hand. I’m a fast reader, but reading the same 107,000 word story five times in a row is a daunting task. I’ve read The Time of the Cat to my wife aloud three times and have gone through it three more times silently. Even so, there are still errors.

It reminds me of the story about the publishing house that decided to publish a perfect book. They went through numerous edits and finally got it to the bookstores. The president of the company went to a bookstore with a friend to purchase a copy and the friend pointed out that the title on the cover had a spelling error.

Marketing poses an equally difficult problem. There are so many books on Kindle that your book will easily go undiscovered unless you push it on social media. This can take a lot of time and also can alienate your followers if you promote too often. I’ve read a number of books on marketing your book and the best I can say is the authors of “How to Market” books are probably making more money from struggling authors than the authors are making by following their advice.

The digital marketplace is still evolving and the days of being able to throw just about anything up on the net and make money are gone. This brings me to my conclusions.

First, I want to thank those early readers that got edition one of my first book. They received a work-in-progress. The second edition is far more readable and the story is smoother. I’m making every effort to polish the second story so that it flows better. Writing is a learning curve and the first novel is the steepest part.

My second point is marketing related. I suddenly realized just how pathetic my marketing was, when I got excited about giving away several hundred copies. The book took hundreds of hours to write and giving it away seems to invalidate my sense of self worth. Still, there is a certain pleasure in knowing that you’ve shared the best story you’re currently capable of telling. That is a considerable reward in and of itself. I know how much I enjoy reading and I like to imagine that you’ll enjoy my books that much. I guess that sense of satisfaction will have to be enough to get me through the editing phase of Second Wave.

Thanks for reading! If you don’t have The Time of the Cat – the link is in the sidebar.

The Second Wave should be available in February, 2015. Then I can do what I really enjoy write the third story, already titled Confederation and roughly plotted. I’m anxious to get to it.


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