This post, by Novel Publicity President Emlyn Chand and author Terri Giuliano Long, originally appeared on Novel Publicity on 8/24/11.
What does it take to be successful as an author? How can one go from simply dreaming a dream to living its reality? Is there any hope for all of the starving wordsmiths of the world?
Why, yes. There most assuredly is.
Terri Giuliano Long: A Case Study
To prove this point to all of the starry-eyed optimists and cynical nay-sayers, allow me to present a case study. It’s no secret that Novel Publicity has been working with literary fiction author Terri Giuliano Long almost since we opened our web portal to business back in March 2011.
Terri published her first novel, In Leah’s Wake, in October 2010. She put in a lot of hard work and hard-earned cash to promote it, and by July 26th, 2011, she had sold her 1,000th copy. A milestone few authors ever reach, indie or not.
1,000 copies—that’s really exciting. But what’s even more exciting is what happened next. It took nine months to sell those 1,000 copies, and only another twenty-nine days to sell 1,000 more. Now Terri’s sales are above 100 per day and show no signs of sinking. Is it fair to say she’s made it?
I think so.
Now that we’ve laid the framework to show that, yes, an indie author can achieve at least a modicum of commercial success, let’s move forward and answer the more pertinent question and get to the real reason you’re reading this blog post anyway: how did she do it?
Perhaps more accurately phrased as: how can you do it?
Let’s explore this question chronologically. Along the way, we’ll discuss what Terri did that was right-on and what she could have done better to give you the chance to learn from both her mistakes and her triumphs.
Write the best book you can.
Not the best book in the entire history of humanity. Just the best one you can possibly write. Give it the time to take root and really grow. Don’t rush to meet a deadline. Don’t try to conform to what’s popular or what somebody else expects. Respect your artistic vision and respect the English language. That’s step one.
What Terri did…
I wrote the first draft as my graduate thesis – the entire first draft in three months. It was terrible, of course – awful writing, a lot of summary, lacking story development. I then spent about four years – while teaching and doing other writing- revising. I started from scratch, meaning I didn’t cut and paste; I started from a blank page and retyped the entire manuscript. This is important because it helps you see the novel with new eyes. I replaced summary with scene, created new scenes, developed characters. There is a lot of drug-related information in the novel. To get it right, I had to research. I also researched protocol on runaway teens, and I looked up information on construction practices, economics and so on. I then looked at thematic issues – this is a story about community and connection. Once I realized this, I worked to develop and pull the themes forward. I always read my work aloud, so tend to edit for style (vocabulary, syntax, etc.) as I write; while I did polish, I didn’t feel a need to style-edit the entire novel.
Package the book in a way that will appeal to readers.
This means, for the love of all that is holy, please PLEASE hire a professional editor. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, readers will notice if your formatting or your punctuation is off. You can’t cut corners if you want to be taken seriously. And this goes beyond the editing.
You also need to present an attractive exterior—I’m talking about your book cover. Saying this goes against that cliché moral code of not judging a book by its cover, but people can and will judge your beloved novel in this way. Don’t give anyone the chance to discount your book for such a superficial reason. Cover your bases.
What Terri did…