Make it Till You Make It

I’ve always been a bit of a rebel; a do-it-yourselfer. So, I guess it should come as no surprise that instead of going the traditional route, I’ve become a self-published author.

Not that that was always the plan. When I first started writing screenplays years ago, the goal was to get an agent who could get my work in front of the right people. Even without an agent, I was hired to write the first draft of a screenplay, which proved a turning point, if only to me. (The movie didn’t get made, but I did feel like I was a “real” writer.)

Sometime after that, though, things changed.

For one, my screenplay wasn’t *quite* good enough, and after multiple revisions I put it away. For five years. A year later, when NaNoWriMo rolled around, I was ready for a new challenge.

I completed my 50,000 words with a few hours to spare, and had myself a very rough first draft of a novel. At the time, I was working in Hawaii for LOST, and once again, I put my work away, albeit for a much shorter time.

Soon after completing the draft it was tax time, and I asked my CPA if there was any way to deduct any of the expenses I incurred while writing: software purchased, paying an editor to help me get a solid second draft, etc… He told me (incorrectly, I later learned) that unless the work was published within that year, the expenses were not deductible.

This was just at the beginning of the self-publishing boom, and I knew little about it, except that it existed. I got caught up in work, life, travel and forgot all about it.

Then, in early 2011 I came across a USA Today article about Amanda Hocking and her unlikely success at self-publishing novels she’d written in a few weeks time. I read some samples of her work and thought, “If she make this work, I can make this work.”

At the time, my novel was close to being done, but I was circling the drain, not quite getting it where it needed to be. A friend of mine, who knows I work better with an external deadline, asked me how long I really needed to get the book done. When I told her six weeks, she said,

“Great, your party is April 15th. We’ll call it, ‘F* your taxes, read my book’ party, and we’ll hand out printed copies to your 20 closest friends.”

Talk about motivation! There is nothing like the fear of humiliation to light a fire under my ass. With hard work and the support of friends and an editor, I made my deadline, handing out copies of Gateway at the party.

What a feeling! I’d kept my word and had a completed novel to show for it. I then allowed myself two weeks off to do absolutely nothing but watch crap television and spent the following week working with a formatter to get my novel ready to be published. One month later, on May 17th, Gateway was available on Amazon, et al.

I rallied my friends and family to purchase it within a short span of time, pushing it into the bestselling ranks for teen fiction and occult fiction. Doing that made it visible to the masses, and I began receiving downloads and reviews from strangers. I also queried several book bloggers, offering a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Many responded yes, and their comments led to more sales.

As with all sales, there have been ebbs and flows, but July of 2012 through the present, over one year after I published Gateway, has been my best sales period yet–by far. Book 2 in the Trilogy, entitled Chasm, became available in mid-August, 2 weeks before my deadline of September 1st. Using my built-in audience from Gateway and all that I’ve learned this past 18 months has helped make this novel a success also. I can’t tell you how exciting and soul-nourishing it is when a complete stranger writes me to say she wants to be a Keeper, or that he is dying for Book 3.

Whether you are an aspiring author, filmmaker painter, or business owner, there’s no time like the present to remove the word, “aspiring” and simply be what you hope to become.

Go beyond, “fake it till you make it,” and actually, “keep making it till you make it.”

With the advent of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, your audience has never been easier to reach. People discover new talent every day and share it with their network, making even the most unlikeliest of content go viral. (Remember double rainbow guy?)

So, set some goals, get the support you need, and make something–anything. As long as it speaks to your soul, it will speak to someone else’s as well. And then do what it takes to share it, getting it into the hearts and minds of the people who can use it most.