Things I wish I knew before Self-Publishing


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As I prepare to re-publish #WheelerNovel, here are some things I wish I knew a year ago when I first succumbed to the siren-song of the self-publish button.

  1. Be certain. Be absolutely certain that what you’ve written is not just good enough, make sure it’s great. Shooting yourself in the foot, repeatedly, weighs heavy and causes huge amounts of angst. Not to mention it could ruin future marketing efforts when hundreds of shitty copies were put out in the ether.
  2. Somebody Wanted But So, Then. While this concept is simplistic, making your story actually about somebody’s journey toward something is a good idea.
  3. Pick a genre and stay with it. Multi-genre, genre-blend, cross-genre – they’re a hard sell.
  4. Literary agent submissions. See #1 and #3 above before you do it.
  5. Beta readers. Like real beta readers, not family and friends. That’s not to say my F&F aren’t great, but look for people, female and male, who don’t know you but also know about books.
  6. Hire an editor – even more than one. Some are worth their weight in gold, others in coal. Be selective and don’t just take the first one who emails you back. Talk to the person first – either IRL or on the phone. Get to know their personality and their editing style. Editing is hell, believe me, but having someone who can cut into your soul but make you laugh and make sense, is worth the ego hit to make your novel better. I have some suggestions if you’re in the market.
  7. A good book title. Coming up with a title is hard – about as hard as writing the back cover blurb. Once you’ve come up with something, make sure nobody else has written a book with the same title. How awkward.
  8. You will not please everyone but at the same time, don’t just please yourself. Wait… that doesn’t sound right.  Anyhoo, ‘they’ tell you to write what you know. Yes, do that, but if you want more than a hand full of people to buy your novel, you have to make the story marketable to the masses.
  9. Have a thick skin. Your story is your heart, mind, and soul all wrapped up into one. It’s worse than your child. Reviews can be brutal but you can learn something from each one. Podium Cafe’s review was a slap and a kick to the gut, however, it spurred me to make some deep cuts and revisions so Wheeler didn’t seem like a ‘fan-fiction.’ See also, #8 above.  (BTW, it still hurts.)
  10. Be mindful of what you tell reviewers about your story. One slip can ruin their perception of your novel. i.e. “started off as fan-fiction.”
  11. Keep only one foot in your story.  What I mean by this is to stay grounded in reality. We writers have the powerful ability to immerse ourselves in our worlds and can sometimes be consumed by them. Unless you’re a multi-millionaire and don’t have a spouse and/or kids, getting lost in your own mind is a painful thing to come back from.
  12. Have another outlet for creativity. I ride my bike 4 to 6 times a week, between leading indoor classes to outdoor riding.  Being outside often by myself, I’m able to find my center again. The constant noise in my brain is drowned out by the wind in my ears and the tick-tick of the chain. I put my body through efforts many people I know scoff at doing.  It hurts but it’s not real pain; it’s a burning in the muscles, in the soul, that once you know you can go there – and stay there – and not die, your body will want to keep going back. I also crochet, which has also caused much the same effect but not in my legs.
  13. Be mindful with whom you base your characters. See also #11. That’s all I have to say about that.
  14. Don’t be deaf to your inner critic. You have your mom and dad, cousin, brother, etc. tell you what you wrote is great, but that little voice inside you is saying “Yes, but…”. See #1, #5 and #6.
  15. Be excited about your story, but temper it. Writing is a passion, a compulsion. I get super duper excited that somebody wants to read what I wrote and I can go off on lengthy ADHD-fueled tangents about the story. If you find someone who wants to read it, let them read it and develop their own relationship with your characters.
  16. Don’t let your Ego get in the way. You’re not going to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or that woman who wrote that book about shades of gray. Just let that dream go right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. [Insert theme to Jeopardy here]  Have you put it down? Do you feel lighter now that all that pressure is off? Good. Now go write something. Hell, write me a comment! Just go write.



Beta Readers – a double-edged sword

Writer Problems. @Lexi Lee M This looks like the type of comics you make!:

I obsess over the mundane. I can’t decide what to cut, even though I know it needs to be done. I needed help, but I am also wounded, how can I trust to hand over what has been already slashed as garbage?

And so, enters BR Number One, who was willing to chat with me daily, giving instant feedback on what was working and what wasn’t; what made him actually tear up (and that’s hard to do, being it’s a GUY), made him spit out his coffee, or give a belly laugh.

Number One (said in Captain Picard’s voice) is a male triathlete, somewhere in the Midwest. He just barely broke 40 years and has embarked on a journey to participate in an Iron Man this year.  We bonded over the ‘I am the Storm’ quote, as he uses this imagery to overcome his own obstacles in his life.

He finished the book this week and I sent him a bunch of questions about his experience, other than what we’ve already snarked over. I’ll share with you some of his comments:

Q: Was there a point at which you felt the story started to lag or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next?

Mainly when the author continued to hammer me about 7/15. I wanted to punch her in the throat a few times. She promised me she would refrain. She sits on a throne of lies.

Q: Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest?

Yes, there was a lot of conflict and tension. Kept my interest but never felt overwhelming. However, there were some spots where I did look at the author over the top of my glasses and said, REALLY?

Q: Was the ending satisfying? Believable?

Yes, love that Loren is beginning to find her way out of the darkness and be able to positively channel her emotions. She’s growing as a character and that felt good. If she wasn’t able to resolve any of that I would have been sorely disappointed.

Q: Do you think the writing style suits the genre? If not, why not?

Honestly, not sure I can answer this. I’ve never read anything in this genre before. I felt the two sides of the story were wonderful. The races were exciting and vivid and the love story was sweet. I do like the author’s writing style even if she is a complete pain in the ass at times and doesn’t always laugh at my jokes.

Betas can be worth their weight in gold and I have been more than blessed with THIS particular one, who has now become a valued friend.  Thank you, JB. 

#amediting #authorproblems

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I’m neck deep now in editing, and I have two new betas reading #wheelernovel. I’ll tell you, not hearing from either of them since I sent a copy is burning a hole in my stomach.

Do they like it? Has the change of direction completely f-ed the story? How can it be longer now!? What do I cut without sacrificing storyline? What little fluff remains is in the relationship, I can’t cut that! Why did I chain myself to an actual calendar!

Am I nuts for still wanting to do this? 

The litany goes on and on and on.

And yet, I look to the next few months and think about relaunching.  What do I do? HOW do I do it?  Do I look for more reviews? (It was hard enough to get the new betas.)

Fuck – why does this have to be so hard! 

At least training for the century on April 29th is right on cue.  Thirty-two miles into headwind felt like 100 this weekend.

Physically, I’m as ready as I’ve been for an end-of-the-season century, thanks to my winter spent on rollers.

Mentally, I’m looking forward to not thinking for 6+ hours while riding.

Head Hopping – It’s not about beer

When I first heard the phrase ‘head hopping,’ I’ll admit, I had no idea what it meant. To me, head hopping was hearing both (or all) of the characters’ inner thoughts in a scene, not necessarily what they were seeing or even feeling to a certain extent. Thing is, I’m not wrong but I’m also not right.

According to many, many articles and blog posts I’ve read, there is no hard and fast rule, only the elusive ‘guideline.’ Some famous novelists head-hop all over the place. Some are a bit, um, vehement about not doing it.

The Editor’s Blog says: ‘Head-hopping is what happens to the reader when a writer suddenly changes the viewpoint of a character or POV. Switching from one viewpoint character to another, experiencing the mind and heart of one character for a moment only to be forced to switch focus to another character a paragraph or two later, is disconcerting.’

When I read Randy Ingermanson’s blog on the subject, I became even more confused.

“Randy sez:  Let’s define terms. “Head-hopping” is the practice of switching point-of-view characters within a single scene. This is not the same as the omniscient point-of-view, which would allow your narrator to know things that none of the characters know.”

Then the points being made by Randy were eclipsed by what was being said in the comments, specifically:

“If it’s about a person, don’t head hop, if it’s about the relationship or bigger picture, head hop.”

And then:

“Skilled writers don’t need it (head hopping) to convey the other person’s emotions through showing.”

I then found Ciara Ballintyne‘s post on the subject, and this is probably the clearest explanation, along with a great flowchart:

  • First – I gave a small shrug. That was of no matter at the moment.
  • Third – Isaiah gave a small shrug. That is of no matter at the moment.
  • Omniscient – Isaiah gave a small shrug. He thought it was of no matter at the moment

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And that’s when my brain exploded.

What say you WordPress?


‘Never apologize for your passion’


“Never apologize for your passion, Loren.”  I wrote this line for Graham, in response to Loren apologizing for her tendency to over-explain her sport, like I do.

Never apologize for your passion, whatever it is.

As I write this, I am currently hip deep in editing #WheelerNovel for the um, third time… however, it hasn’t been my own pathetic editing skills that have suggested the changes.  It was because of two people who came within my sphere.

The first, Brian, JB (whatever), is an inspiring triathlete. He also possesses a creative mind and sense of humor that even when he nitpicks, he does it in a way that I laugh first. His excitement about reading the story of pro cyclist, Loren Mackenzie has reignited my mind.

The second, Brenda at @storyperfected, challenged me. She pushed me to own my writing style. I’m grateful to her for that, and while we are no longer working together, her push to the first cut has fanned the spark of my creativity. The spirit of her editing whispers in my ear: “Who’s POV is that?” It’s MINE dammit!

The changes, specifically within the first few chapters, has (I hope) honed what was deemed ‘fan fiction’ and romance novelesque into a story that wholly steps into women’s fiction with a romantic bent. Still the smattering of Shakespeare to endear the lovers, the racing is even more exciting, and the drama has ticked up a notch or two.

The tale is fully about Loren and her challenges as a cycling team leader; but also, her spiral into the darkness of her mind. How someone who believes they are broken can open their eyes to find kindred spirits waiting for them, in the outstretched hand of an anam cara, and the embrace of a lover.

I’m not done, but the cutting and rewriting have become easier now that I am not so emotionally entangled with my Muse. I needed the slap in the face only the first bloody kill of a darling can bring. Damn you for being so real, Pretend English Boyfriend! 

Follow me on WordPress or on Twitter (@sarazalesky) for updates on my posting of the revised First Chapter, when Wheeler might be back on Kindle and possibly, when and where I could be leading an indoor cycling class based on the final race in my book: the World Championship Time Trial held in Richmond, VA.

Don’t be afraid of your passion.

P.S. Wanna be a Beta Reader?