Tag Archives: Self-Publishing

Writing Anxiety

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I think everyone in the self-publishing game goes through periods of self-doubt and anxiety. My big one is that I haven’t done enough to build my “author platform.” I’m an introvert by nature, and my relationship to even the online world tends to be a cagey one. I love connecting with new writers whose work I love, and who I can engage with in conversation about the craft we both love. But it can be a little hard to tell who is going to be that kind of writer, and who is going to spam my Twitter feed with ads.

I recognize I need to reach out more than I do, and slowly I am working on doing just that, but there are so many aspects to publishing of any kind beyond just working on the books. I think many writers would like to just sit at a desk writing, then hand their work off to someone else to take care of the nasty business of selling it.

Ultimately sitting at a desk staring at my computer until my eyes get blurry isn’t much of a way to address any anxiety I might be feeling. There are much more practical ways to cope:

1) Remember this is a long game – There’s always time to build new connections, to write the next book or the next dozen books. It’s very unlikely you’ll get success with your very first effort, even if you’ve built a fabulous platform. Just do the next book a little bit better based on the things you learned the last time around.

2) Do what makes sense to you – Don’t force yourself to half-heartedly do things you think might help. Your engagement with the campaign, whether it’s promoting your book or forming new relationships, will come through your actions. Get to know people because you want to get to know them, not because it’s “mutually advantageous.”

3) Do a little something – Do one small tangible thing a day toward the area you’re worried about. Submit your book for review in a new place, comment on a new blog, work on an ad.

4) Get others to help – Writing the book was likely not a solitary endeavor. There are friends and family who will be more than willing to help when you need a boost, even if it’s just a friendly message.

5) Keep writing – When you can’t do anything else, do the most essential thing. Actually writing something tends to make me feel better, and makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. And at the end of the day, you need content that people can actually read, and you need to get better at your craft. Writing will never be wasted time.

6) Don’t put the book away – If a book isn’t selling yet, there’s no particular reason to give up on it. You can always relaunch with a new cover, or try to build it up with a slow burn. It’s something you’ve worked hard on, and sometimes there can be a bit of depression or exhaustion after finishing a project. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go back and give it another go. Most things we read aren’t the latest and greatest thing. They’re the books our friends have recommended, or the new discovery we make in the library.

7) Be patient – Don’t panic and make rash choices. Take the time to write a good synopsis or pitch. Wait a day if you’re not sure what to do. Better to do it right the first time a few days later than to have to redo or write off that place to submit.

8) Help others – Chances are there’s another writer you know in the same boat. If you’ve got time, and expendable income, read their book and write a review. Or just throw out a random word of encouragement. We’re all in this together, in some ways more than ever.

9) Relax – Have a beer. Watch a little TV. You’re never going to be able to work all of the time you want to. If you did, you’d miss out on life, and have very little to say about it in your writing.

If you ever want to talk about this stuff, the bar is always open. Flash a message to @fractal_man or bentrubewriter@gmail.com. If you don’t look spammy, I’ll probably say hi 🙂


Want to try a bit of Ben’s book? Download the first few chapters of Surreality here: (epub | kindle)

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Filed under Writing, Writing Goals

Be a professional self-publisher

I am mortified that I have ever let people read my first drafts. I have subjected this horror on my friends, my parents and even my wife.

Nobody wants to read the raw thoughts that come out of my brain. Nobody should have to sift through over 200,000 words that really should have been 120,000 (or maybe even 80,000). Nobody should be thrown down all the blind alleys, long dragging passages, spelling errors, grammar errors and just crappy phraseology of initial prose.

This is why you need an editor.

In a recent intelligence squared debate on Amazon and self-publishing, two statements by the debaters struck me:

  • Self-published authors write more than one book a year, often churning them out.
  • Writers don’t think they need editors.

My wife will tell you the second one at least seems true a lot of the time. Working on the same novel for more than seven years tends to beat a little of that stubbornness out of you, however. As a treat (or a joke, or a punishment) I’m planning to read the first draft of Surreality after I publish the final just to see what’s changed. Already I can tell you whatever thin notion I had that editing wasn’t necessary should fly away after that.

I understand the desire to churn out books. It can seem like the best way to get your name out there. And truthfully some of the most successful books haven’t been that well written or edited, but so are the vast majority of obscure, never-read books. And everyone seems to want to write series, or trilogies, to the point that some self-published authors break what probably was a mid to longer length book into smaller chunks.

But I don’t think anyone wants to write a bad book. Believe me, I understand what it is like to have a dozen book ideas in your head and the worry that you’ll never have time to get them all out. It’s a self feeding beast. The more you write, the more you want to write. And that is great and you totally should write as much as you possibly can, whenever you can.

But if you want people to read it, you need an editor and you need to cut stuff. Maybe 20% of your original draft will survive to the final, and it’s likely that won’t be the best 20%. The best ideas you’re going to have are going to be 5-10 revisions in.

You should not choose the self-publishing route because you want to skip the wait of traditional publishing. You should do it because it fits better with the kind of story you want to tell, or the price you want to sell your book, or because you’re an enterprising type. Maybe you can work with several books in the pipeline and produce finished books every three months, but for those books to be any good they need time to mature and to be refined.

Here are some more thoughts in no particular order:

  • Get an editor, not just a proof-reader. You can pay someone to fix your grammar, and spell check your book, but that isn’t really a lot better than Word’s built-in functions unless the person understands your work and what works and what doesn’t. Try to find someone you can have a conversation with to fix the text. You may still need a proofer at the end, but the prose needs more than just a quick correct.
  • Learn to draw big red ‘X’s through what’s not working. Make it something you want to do, something that gives you a little shot of dopamine every time you cross out a word, or a sentence or a paragraph that isn’t working. The spine of your story and your characters will still be there, just without the clutter. It’s really okay.
  • You can design your own cover if you want, but avoid the “self-published” cover look. This can have a lot to do with chosen fonts, size of title, and where the text is on the images (it’s subtle but detectable). Try looking at the covers of books published in your genre in the past couple of years and look for design elements you like.
  • Don’t let writing a bad book get you down too much. Rejection, whether it’s from a literary agent or from a reader, is pretty much part of the game no matter how good or bad you are. Take the advice that makes sense to you and apply it. Throw the rest out.
  • Keep writing. Publish when ready, not when done.
  • Do what feels right to you, but be willing to change it when new data arises. You should not be the same kind of writer you were five years ago, or will be five years from now.
  • Try getting something traditionally published, even if it’s just a short story. Understand the thing you are rejecting before writing it off forever. It’s cliche, but you never know until you try, no matter what anyone in the blogosphere might say.
  • Define what success looks like to you. (Hint: It will almost never be something like 1 million copies sold or fame and fortune). Up that goal a little with each book, but be happy when you meet goals.

What have you learned from self-publishing or reading self-published authors?

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How to keep from checking your sales stats every 5 minutes

If I thought writing the blog made me obsessed about stats, I had no idea what I was in for when I actually published something. It’s even worse now that the book is on three different stores (more if you count all of Amazon’s countries, made my first couple of UK sales but still waiting on Germany). The book’s been out about five weeks now, and I thought I’d share some of the tips and tricks for trying to maintain at least part of your sanity:

Tips for keeping yourself from hitting “refresh”

1) Read your book. You’ve spent so long writing it, take a moment to actually enjoy it. Wait. Was that a typo? Forget what I just said!

2) Schedule a dental appointment. Preferably one that involves a root canal.

3) Play with your cat.

4) Take the dog for a W-A-L-K.

5) If I check the UK stats that’s in a different time zone right? There’s like a six hour difference or something. That’s not five minutes.

6) Tell your wife every time you check the stats.

7) Drive to Cleveland, stand in the public square, and protest the NSA. Chances are they’ll at least buy a copy if they haven’t already.

8) Take a hammer to your keyboard or your forehead, whichever costs less to replace.

9) Drive to work (most peaceful 70 minutes of my day, especially the morning).

10) Crash your host server (written as Kindle Direct Publishing stats seem to be down).

11) Organize your 2400 eBook library. Decide which books should go on the Nook and which on the Kindle.

12) Throw up your hands in frustration as your Nook forgets your shelves AGAIN!

13) Beta read for a friend.

14) Create a new fractal.

15) Watch Star Trek all day.

16) Wait. Kindle’s back up. What was I saying?

17) Futz with your Goodreads/Wordress/Facebook page.

18) Thank your beta readers, your blog readers, your reader readers.

19) Make lists.

20) Tell your wife you love her. Worth more than any sale.

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Filed under Books + Publishing, Internal Debate 42, Writing

The Two “Ben Trubes”

I am two people, and two people are me.

For starters there’s Ben Trube, Writer and Ben Trube, Person. Me the writer has been blogging for a year and a half, and now has a new Facebook page. The Ben Trube on the blog is usually me, either at the end of a long evening or early in the morning. But the Ben Trube on Facebook is me the brand, and that’s the work of me the person and my editor (who also goes by “the little red haired girl” or “my wife”).

In other words, writing and publishing are not solo endeavors.

It can be hard as a writer to collaborate. So much of the early process of a book is done alone, whether it’s planning out a storyline, or writing a chapter. This is to many the most romantic part of the job of author, the creative thinker in the high tower (or coffee shop) bringing words to life with flick of his pen (or tap of his fingers).

And it takes ego to write. It is a somewhat arrogant thought to think that you have something to say that others should read, doubly so if you’re doing it three times a week. All of us may have a book inside us, but writers are the ones crazy enough to force other’s to read it, even rough drafts we should probably touch up before ever letting them see the light of day.

But we need other people.

The self-publishing era seems to be the purest expression of the author in the high tower. I can write something, and in an instant you can be reading it. But even in that small contract there are two participants. And the fact is a lot of self-published eBooks (probably the majority) are rough. My unfiltered and unedited thoughts are not always the most appealing. There are times I can come off like a pompous know-it-all, and sometimes I’m just an ass. Even if I don’t mean to be (and believe me I’m a teddy bear at heart), I can come off as a less than appealing version of myself without my partner.

I think I in fact have the most romantic of writing relationships, the husband and wife working together. She calls me on “constipated” thinking (we both love Finding Forrester), she corrects my grammar, and she works to understand subject matter that is of little interest to her, just to help me do what I want to do. It is one thing to edit a fiction story in a common genre like mystery which may not be your thing but can still be engaging. It is quite another to walk through technical language, and equations, and unusual math. My wife has taken on this task with grace, and humor, and has made the work better in ways I couldn’t.

And she is helping me to develop the Ben Trube, writer you see on Facebook, to reach out to new audiences who might not otherwise see my work.

It is still difficult to be sure. There are times when I slip and think of this as only my work. But the truth is there are many people who’ve been helping me along, whether it’s hard editing, technical reading, or just sending good vibes my way. I’m grateful for everyone who’s helped me to get to this point, and I hope that I can show them most of the time that they are appreciated.

If this sounds a little bit like a love sonnet to my wife, you’re not wrong. Madeline L’Engle worked with her husband on a lot of her early stories, and it’s clear that he was part of what made them clearer and concise. Upon his death, and left to her own devices, her work was longer and stranger. She was still a good writer, but the partnership with her husband made her a great writer. I’m lucky to have such a partnership with my own wife.

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When to hit publish

I used to read back every word I wrote in my blog posts (several times).

That lasted about a week.

Sometimes you need to write what you feel, do a quick skim to make sure you haven’t committed too many serious grammatical mistakes (except when the purpose of the post is those mistakes), add a sentence here, tighten a word or two there, and hit publish.

But books are different.

Even in this self-publishing wild west world in which we now live, a sloppily edited book comes off as such. We understand, in fact we embrace the idea, that you’re circumventing the gatekeepers in the publishing houses to give people what they actually might want to read. But really you need to string two sentences together or the reviews might kill you.

On the other hand books can languish from over-editing, over-obsessing. If a book is up to a certain standard the back and forth feedback from reviewers, bloggers, and a wider circle might actually help you to write better material. It might be hard for some writers to hear this, but maybe there’s not really a good excuse for keeping things in a drawer anymore. If it’s been rejected by publishers, but is still a story some niche might enjoy then publish.

But a bad story can set a tone two. One reviewer I read recently thought that the writer had some imaginative and original ideas, but that the characterizations were terrible, and the writing poor. They looked forward to reading future more polished works. This is the unusual case. Usually if someone has paid money for something, and it turns out to not be that good, that will cement their impression of it for a long time.

So what do we do? Do we push something out the door, or do we wait and wait til its perfect?

My other line of work is programming. This may shock you, but most programs are not perfect on their release day. They need patches, bug fixes, and feature enhancements (Yes you Linux users may say otherwise, but even your software gets patches and updates). Weirdly enough, the book of today is more like a program than a book. I know several eBook published authors who are rewriting their novels based on feedback and either republishing under the same title, or creating another book. Kindle supports updates to books, and eBooks reading may overtime have more of a patch structure, with user feedback and further ideas allowing an author to enhance their work, to fix it.

To some this is frightening (me kinda included). I love all my stories, don’t get me wrong (please buy Surreality in Jan-Feb ’13 🙂 ), but the thought of revising them after I hit publish can seem a little never-ending. Maybe a set time frame would make sense. It’s definitely something I’d be open to trying.

But this assumes a book is good enough to start, to get people interested in telling even more story. Otherwise the book leaves a bitter taste.

Ultimately the decision about whether a book is ready is up to you, more than ever. Set a deadline, work your butt off, and get it out there. I can’t wait to read it!

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Filed under Books + Publishing, Writing