Getting published. Wow, is that ever a story. I just recently did a one-hour podcast interview on Toginet on “An Author’s Journey,” and although it’s a little weird to talk a full hour about yourself (ugh), I am grateful for the opportunity to encourage authors-in-the-making by sharing the key moments in this author’s odyssey.
Since getting published, I’ve had several people approach and ask me how I did it. I’m a normal, every day kind of girl. What makes me so special? Good question. Although I am not the one with all the answers, simply, it starts with a dream. It starts with a vision God drops in your heart that you have to make a decision to take action on. Then there’s a lot of stuff in the middle (including the temptation to quit.) Finally, after all that, there’s a book. And if you’ve done it right, hopefully it’s a good one.
When asked to share a few key points of an author’s journey, this is what this author has to say:
1. In the beginning…
- It doesn’t start with a book, or even a book idea. For me it started in a coffee shop with a bad attitude, a heartfelt prayer, and an attempt to get going in a different direction. I walked out with a napkin and a new vision. That’s how and when the 30×30 list was born–a list of 30 things I wanted to do before turning 30 years old. Fast forward a few years and I was blessed to have crossed off 29 of the 30 items!
- Why a book? People watched me go through this list, started making lists of their own, and then the requests for a book began rolling in. The list was done, but maybe it was time to start a new chapter. Huh, maybe I should do this.
- How on earth does someone write a book and get published?
- That’s where Judith Briles, a book shepherd and author of over 30 books, entered the picture. Eventually her connections and expertise branched into so much more. It all began at a conference. I flew out from CA after a friend told me about this author’s conference. Judith had spoken at my friend’s organization, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and had made an impression, so I went to check it out. I sat in the room full of authors who had actually been published feeling like a little girl in pigtails and I thought, “I am so over my head. I’m in the right place!” Soak it up.
- Do your homework.
- There are so many different ways and publishing options now. The book industry has changed, keeps changing, and with those options come predators. Don’t be prey.
- Do you know the difference between standard NY publishers, independent publishing, and vanity press? I didn’t. I knew nothing.
- My first conference I didn’t have a single word written, just an idea. I went to about 3-4 author conferences before even having typed a manuscript. Then it was time to actually sit down and write in order to have something to work with.
- If you don’t know what you’re doing, hang out with people who do.
- At the conferences, I met people who were in all stages of the publishing process. Talking with them was so valuable! In a way I was jealous of all these people who had done it. The best part was their encouragement that someday I could do it too.
- You may not want to do things the way they did them, but knowing your options and getting encouragement from people who “know” is priceless.
- Use your resources. Do what you can with what you have.
- Don’t focus on what you don’t have or what you can’t do. See what you do have and then do something with it.
- My background is in marketing, communications, and corporate event planning. I worked for Coors on their business plans for their distributorships in CA, then I did event management for 3 years. During that time in CA, I interned with 2 wedding photographers and took classes at the Ansel Adams gallery because photography was something I loved and wanted to pursue. When I moved back to CO, no more interning– I started my own photography business, and Ashography was born. That all came into play and was the pivoting point in really doing the book. I pulled from my background and relationships I had built over the years and then I started reaching out as the game plan and timeline was created. In life, everything we’ve been through and have experienced leads in to what we will do next. Use it.
- Seeing authors at these conferences I saw a need. The conference leader saw a need too. When asked to photograph the conferences, I did. I then developed specific packages for these authors for their bio shots, including digital copyright and commercial use files. I’ve seen way too many yucky author photos and it is so critical to present yourself to your readers and give them a piece of you visually–the best version of you.
- The writing process.
- For me, it was done in stages and took over a year. I personally wrote the book in sections and categories, but I know some authors who binge write and can knock out an entire book in a weekend. Everyone is goosed differently. Creativity is a beautiful thing and looks different on each person. The 30×30 book was reconfigured about 5 times, moving the puzzle pieces around to the point of frustration. I needed help, but I wasn’t ready to let people read it yet. To be honest, I actually never let friends read it before it was published. It wasn’t until I finally pulled the trigger and handed it over to a professional editor that a human being finally saw the whole thing.
- After writing, there comes the editing. This is also done in phases. I believe there were at least 4 rounds of editing, from content edits to the final cold-eye.
- During this process, I got extremely mad at it. Frustration turned into outright anger, so I shelved it. The document sat on my computer for an entire year untouched.
- When life happens, breathe. Refocus.
- I fell off the planet.
- The book dream got waylaid after a personal tragedy in my world. Suicide brought me to my knees. Part of the healing process was getting back involved with the book. I remember coming back to an author’s meeting, almost ashamed. His life ended, but mine had to go on.
- After a conversation with the editor I abandoned, the publishing community scooped me up and it was time to REALLY do this.
- Pulling the trigger. Kickstarter kicked it off.
- After doing my homework, I had a relative idea of the costs and processes involved. It was time to pull the trigger and do the next step…fund it. The troops were rallied, the goals set. We got stumped. Rallied again, and then had a miracle nail biting finish!
- 113% funded in 30 days. Wow. I still stand amazed.
- Got the funds, now I owed these people a book! No more excuses.
- Make good choices. Do your book justice. Trust your team.
- Cover – designed by a professional who has won multiple awards. She knew my style and what I wanted. It took a couple rounds, but we finally nailed it.
- Interior – had it done by a professional. Watching it turn from a word document into an actual book was soooooo exciting! He brought in elements that I hadn’t thought of. We worked on the activities sections in the book and he highlighted the photography quite nicely.
- Printing – Judith, my editor and book shepherd in this whole process, walked me through paper options, flaps, copy for the back cover. I cried the day I got the proof in the mail. This was really happening.
- Launch time. Tell the world.
- Planning for the launch started back when the book was in round 2 of editing.
- I botched my Amazon launch in terms of timing and could have leveraged that more, but I’ll do it better with the next book. They released the book a week earlier than planned and then when it came to the actual day I communicated in all my promo materials, Amazon had dropped the price. (Little known fact, authors have ZERO control on pricing on Amazon. Their algorithms are king and they are hard to crack.) My book was on sale from day 1! Oops.
- Launch party? I wasn’t going to do one, but my editor convinced me it was important to celebrate. Sooooooo I did three launch parties, for very different reasons.
- #1. A pre-release happy hour in Southern Colorado. I wanted a reason to get in the local papers…and to get distribution in the little gift shops in the mountain ski town I live in.
- #2. The main party at the Denver Book Bar. A large part of my Kickstarter backers came to celebrate. It was time to raise a toast, and I owed them hugs–WE DID IT!
- #3. Bookworm of Edwards – this event got me front page in the Vail Daily High Life, an interview on TV 8 with Trisha Swenson, and more distribution.
10. Know what success looks like.
- Defining moment. My editor asked me to define what success looks like for my book. Book sales? Reviews? Profits? Best seller lists? What? That will determine the strategy in selling and marketing your book.
- I wanted to turn this into speaking engagements that would light people up to go out there and DO their own lists. To get off the couch, out of the funk, and go do something with their dreams. Life is a gift and someday is today. Go get it.
- It’s never too late. It’s never too soon, either!
SUMMARY: Do your homework. Do the work. Call in the big guns and professionals. Be flexible. Breathe. Define success. KEEP GOING.
And yes, there’s another book in the works! *big smile*
Ashlee Bratton is a professional photographer, freelance writer, and entertaining speaker with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and master’s degree in business administration.
Along with completing 29 of the 30 things on her 30×30 list, her writing contributions include numerous publications such as Vail’s EAT magazine, creating a 56 page Visitor Guide for a mountain ski town, blogging and guest blogging, being featured in multiple newspapers and e-zines, and various other projects.
Currently, she keeps her camera in hand in Southern Colorado, is a complete and total foodie, and takes plane rides for fun. She likes things that go.