I am sitting on my back porch, under an umbrella, consumed by a contemplative state of mind that has been circling me for some time.
The chaos of the holidays gave a welcome relieve from the routine of writing. I have a tendency to fixate on one idea and hound after it. Just before the holidays, at the beginning of NaNoWriMo, I finished a major edit of the first book, At the Lady’s Behest Comes…. In the euphoria that comes from completing a major task, I rushed off a query letter to an agent. My urge to act rashly sated, my calmer brain has had time to grind on the problem of going from author’s draft to published work.
For the record, the agent never responded to my query letter.
Good Marketing Trumps Writing Skills
One thing made clear in conversations with published authors is that the decision of who gets published is made on business merits, not artistic ones. To get noticed by agents and publishers, an author needs to show they understand that fact and are prepared to market their own work.
Time spent building a brand is time not spent writing. But thanks to two years of NaNowriMo I have a reasonable working draft of most of the second book, and chunks of what will be in the third book. It is a good time to broaden and bifurcate my focus, especially if it helps me acquire a decent agent or publisher.
Creating An Online Presence
The first step to presenting a good image to agents and publishers is to have a professional looking website. Boring is better than bad, but of course cool counts for something. My current website is a glorified blog with links to sparse content. Closer to bad than boring.
But before you build a web site, or any application, you must have a concept of what it will contain, and how it will display that content. For example, there should be a landing page with a nice graphic and clear options to take you what content is there.
Uh…Graphic? What graphic? What precisely is this graphic and where the heck and I going to get it? I know my artistic limits, and graphic design is not my strong suit. Is this the point to talk with someone with professional experience? How much money would that cost?
Content Is King
An “about the author” page is needed, with a picture of me that isn’t blurry and which won’t frighten small children and farm animals. A high standard.
Putting my chapters online are a given; but what is the best way to get the user to the desired chapters with the fewest clicks and choices?
Should I put up documents about the world? Maps, explanations of the language the wizards speak, background mythology, and the like?
Should I include information about the characters? Is so, how much should I reveal about them, their history, their story arcs, etc…. Should I try to get pictures drawn of the characters and display it next to their bio?
Should I do the chapter readings or not? I enjoyed doing the first two, but they are time consuming. The more I learn about how to manipulate the audio the more I play with edits and the longer it takes to complete. Is it time well spent on something that will attract visitors/readers? Or is it more spinning my wheels and creating obstacles for myself? Slowing me down when I should be speeding up? I’ve held up finishing the reading of the third chapter until I resolve this debate.
Kathryn has started creating music for my story. Originally to put at the beginning of the chapter readings. I like what she has done very much, and will certainly include MP3s of it on the website eventually.
The Call of Writing
In addition to all of these thoughts, I am also preparing for the Magic City Writers edits to my eleventh chapter, …Cause All to Cry ‘Havoc’. I do not doubt that there will be significant edits after their review, and I will likely use that as an opportunity to revisit chapters twelve and thirteen.
And from there I might well lose myself in work on the second novel, …Demiurge, Unbound,…. Time spent writing is time not spent building a professional online presence or searching for an agent or publisher. But it does move me closer to having a fully completed story, even if it is an imperfect draft like the first novel. That might be the strongest selling point of them all.
I would greatly appreciate the thoughts anyone has on how best to address some of the choices I face. I am a stranger in a strange land, and am uncertain how best to proceed.