November 15, 2012

One Indie Author’s Experience

By Samantha Combs

When I started my writing journey, I had no idea it would be a journey at all.  I simply had a fun idea for a book and a weariness of vampires.  Of course, my brilliant idea was to write a story about witches.  I realize, now anyway, that my idea of how it would all go down was patently ridiculous.  Behind my rose-colored leopard-print shades, I envisioned the path of my anticipated success.  I typed the last line in my story, sat back pleased, and began to mentally write a list of all the bright and shinys I would purchase with my sure-to-be-massive advance.  I chose a lucky few agents to send it to and fought the urge to roll my hands together greedily waiting for the frantic bidding war.

Which did not happen.  While I did get two bites from one agent and one publisher (Harlequin), they did not follow my script. They did not rush to their phones barely able to contain themselves being so close to my brilliance.  That was simply not in the blueprint.  I didn’t know what to do.  So, I did what I always do when I don’t know the answer to something; I turned to the internet.  And found the plethora of information so confusing.

Advice ran the gamut.  Send queries to as many agents as you can.  Send your query to only a select few.  Mention what you are doing on your blog.  My blog?  I didn’t even have a blog.  At that point, I didn’t have a blog, a Facebook page, thought tweeting was a bird thing, and that Tumblr was for US athletes.  I was completely clueless.  But nothing if not driven.  So, I started blogging, opened a Twitter account, and subscribed to as many writer-run blogs as I could.  And I learned.
With all my newfound knowledge, I decided to try a new approach.  I began to research the publishers themselves.  Having submitted my manuscript to Harlequin unagented, and having them respond, I felt buoyed and confident.  I scrubbed and polished the query and resubbed to a fistful of handpicked houses.  I chose ones whose websites spoke to me, sometimes for great reasons, sometimes for stupid ones.  One I chose for their super pretty font, swear to God.  All in all, I counted almost fifty rejections.  Then I got The Email.

It came on a particularly busy day at work.  I read it, started pounding down a carpeted hallway, stopped, then read it again. They wanted it.  They liked it.  They offered me a contract to publish it.  The first time that happened ranked up there with my wedding and the births of my children, subtitled: Epic Things In My Life.  An epublisher, Astraea Press would publish Spellbound digitally at first and in print later.  I went through a whirlwind of firsts: my first edits (brutal), my first cover (breathtaking), the first time I ever saw my name in print (exhilarating).  And I began to believe in myself.  One day, when a friend was introducing me for the first time, she said, “And this is my friend Samantha.  She’s an author.”  I almost passed out.

Cut to two years later.  I am a happily published author of seven books.  I write ,, Middle Grade horror and adult horror short story collections for two different houses, Astraea Press and Musa Publishing. I have even tried my hand at the self-publishing thing.  Each book makes me prouder than the one previous.  I am on facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.  I have a ridiculous internet footprint.  I attend conferences and writer gatherings as often as a married, working mother who also writes can.  I blog often.  Best of all, while I write stories I would want to read; I have listened and learned along the way to many, many much smarter and accomplished authors. 
I have learned to self-edit.  I have subsequently learned that I suck at editing and am blessed that others do not.  I have learned to succinctly describe my vision to an artist so they understand what I see in my head for my book cover concept.  I have learned social media has a place in my writer world, but to not rely on it.  I market myself wherever I am, but only when appropriate.  I now know pimping myself mercilessly on Twitter actually angers people.  I have discovered that the most interesting thing about me to my readers is not just about my books.  It’s about where I have traveled, what I think of current events, and even when I last got cut off on the road.  My readers (I still can’t say fans without blushing) want to know about me as a person, not as an author only.  My heartbeat is more interesting to them than the click of my mouse.  They want to know about my life as much as the lives of my characters.

I expect to publish for a long time.  I expect to have an agent someday.  I expect that as long as I breathe air, writing will rank up there in my personal Top Ten, and way up at the top, too.  And I expect to listen and learn about my craft every day.  As a writer, an author, or both, that is your responsibility.  Writing is fun; publishing is a business.  Be serious about it and absorb everything.  Go to conferences, friend authors you admire (I am always amazed at how thrilled they are to hear from a fan) and make it your business to hone and perfect your craft.  And the best advice I ever got?  Write a good book. 
Samantha Combs writes from Southern California and has seven published books, the Global Ebook Award-winning debut title: SPELLBOUND, currently in print and in production with, and GHOSTLY, both YA paranormals, SPELLBOUND's sequel, EVERSPELL, a middle grade horror called THE DETENTION DEMON, and two adult horror collections, TEETH AND TALONS and WAY PAST MIDNIGHT. WATERDANCER, a new YA fantasy, released in September of 2012. I enjoy writing YA paranormal romance and supernatural fantasy, but I also dabble in the horror and sci-fi genres as well, and writing for the Middle Grade audience. I have plans for many more books in the future.CONNECT WITH Samantha!

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