Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Perfectly Imperfect Book Launch {The Light Between Us}

I wrote a book.  And published it.  It's out there in the world right now, being both read and not read, as books are.  People own it.  This is exhilarating.  This is terrifying.

So.  Wondering how my indie book launch went?  Here's the good, the bad, the ugly, and the next-thing, plus a brief reflection on what I'll do differently the next time around.


The Good


Nearly 5,000 people downloaded a free Kindle copy of The Light Between Us.  A couple purchased a print copy, and a nice handful bought the Kindle edition after the freebie period ended.  It was ranked in the top 100 books in the free Kindle store, and was #1 and #2 in a couple of the free romance categories.  My expectations were exceeded by lightyears upon lightyears.  This is not just good.  This is really, really, really (really!) good.

Also, my mother downloaded my book and read it in about a day, and then wrote to tell me that she loved it.  I can't tell you how much this means to me. 

And actually, she wasn't alone in reading The Light Between Us in a single day or so -- a number of you did.  Thank you and thank you and thank you for downloading your free copy, for reading, for the kind words you've sent me way, and for sharing my book with your friends.  I am deeply grateful.


The Bad


I got a couple of less-than-glowing reviews.  This is not the bad thing -- opinions all over the map come with the territory of sharing your words with the world. 

The bad thing is that said reviews mentioned that my manuscript is rife with copy-editing errors.  After the first review, I scoffed.   

Editing errors?  I thought.  Are you serious?  I am a skilled writer and editor.  I graduated with honors in creative writing.  I'd never make the rookie mistake of launching a book that's less than polished, thankyouverymuch.

After the second one-star review, I stopped scoffing.  I went back into my manuscipt and started reading.

And -- felt my stomach plummet as I realized that those reviewers were right.  There really were a number of embarrassing copy-editing mistakes.  Missing words, misspellings, errant punctuations, and so forth.  And more than one or two. 

As Ruth, the protagonist of The Light Between Us might say, oh. shit.

(Humorous aside: one of these reviewers said that she was disappointed in my book's editing because my blog is so polished.  I almost never edit my blogs.  Shhh.)  ;)


The Ugly


Nearly 5,000 people own a copy of my book -- a book that I've just realized is, in spite of all my skills and editing efforts, rife with copy-editing errors.  That's not good.  This is not the ugly part, though. 

The ugly part is that this fact has filled me with shame.  My body is both weak and heavy with it.  My nerves are on edge, as if I've drunk a gallon of coffee (I haven't).  I want to hide and never stop hiding.  I want to weep.  I want to punch myself in the face.  I literally don't know how I'm going to look my family in the eyes at our Father's Day celebration later today.

(Grammar errors aside, these two reviewers also hated the story and/or characters.  Interestingly, this does not bother me at all.  I believe in my story, and have no qualms about others disliking the plot or Ruth or language choices or any of it.  Maybe the copy-editing stuff hits me so hard because that is something that's in my control?  And I do idolize my precious control.)

The Next


Okay.  Breathe, Beth, breathe. 

This is not the end.  You haven't killed your career before it even got off the ground. 

So, what's next?  Well, you'd better believe that I'm going back in for another round of copy-editing on The Light Between Us.  That's the beauty of indie publishing -- it's easily fixable.  I just hope that I don't have to eat too much grammar-flavored crow. 

And after that, I'm going back to work on my next novel.  I've mentioned it before -- a YA contemporary fantasy based loosely on Celtic myth involving magick, druidesses, and portals through time and space.  Oh yeah.  It feels like it'll be a much longer story than The Light Between Us (which is about 66,000 words, a short novel).  I'm currently 30,000 words into the Celtic-ish fantasy and am feeling like I'm only about a third into the plot.  Sign up for my newsletter if you'd like to get some sneak peeks sent to your inbox.  I might post an excerpt of two here on the blog as well.

Things I'll Do Differently Next Time


I plan on continuing to publish independently.  Because, well, I value that independence.  I make the rules.  And yeah, while that means that the burden responsibility falls on me when things go wrong, it also means that I get to keep all the profits and positives, too.

I think I did pretty well for a first run, especially considering that I hadn't written a speck of fiction since 2010 before The Light Between Us.  But there are a few things I'd do differently:

  • Refuse to be a slave to the deadline.  I announced that my book would be available on June 14, and then thought I had to meet that deadline come hell or high water.  And when it became apparent that I could do with a few more days before launch, I thought I couldn't take those days.  I forgot that, as an indie publisher, I set the rules.  So I pushed to get the book out, rushed the last round of edits, and stressed stressed stressed.  Next time I'll just give myself the extra days.
  • Not get enough sleep.  I am a chronic not-sleep-enough-er.  I covet my time, and hate giving any of it up, even for something as important as sleep.  And I'm sure that this affected my editing capabilites.  Sigh.  Oops.  Sigh again.
  • Enlist more editing help.  I had a number of talented folks beta read The Light Between Us -- but not for editing.  I thought I could do that all myself, and knew that I couldn't afford to hire a copy editor (a good editor, like this fabulous one, charges around $2,000 -- yikes).  But I was wrong; I needed more editing eyes.  For my Celtic-ish novel, I already have a manuscript trade lined up with a fellow writer, in which we'll swap books and tear them apart, both for copy-editing errors and plot/characterization/inconsistencies/etc.
  • Consider not reading my reviews.  Or have my husband screen them for me, so he can point out what might be helpful criticism (like those reviewers who pointed out copy-editing issues -- as hard as that was to hear, it's also true, and I appreciate that, so thank you) versus the less constructive I just despise your writing opinions.  And yes, while I'd also miss out on reading positive reviews, I'm okay with that because I'm so hard on myself that I tend to have a difficult time truly believing praise.  Also, a dear friend pointed out to me that Bren√© Brown doesn't read her books' reviews and comments on her YouTube-d talks because the negative ones put her to bed for days.  And she's Bren√© Brown.  
  • Writing this blog post.  If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you've probably heard me talk about what a lifeline words are for me, particularly publicly processing my junk in this space.  So here I am, showing up, feeling the hard things, sifting voices, and writing my soul into sanity.  And now that I've finished, my body isn't vibrating as much, and I know this is going to be okay.  

Let me just say again -- publishing a book is terrifying.  And exhilarating.  And terrifying.  What a roller coaster I've been riding since baring my book to the world on Thursday.  Was my launch perfect?  Not by a long shot.  But I did it.  I did it.  And so can you.  That pie in the sky you've been eying?  It's not nearly as unreachable as it seems right now.  That ember of a dream you've been tending?  Fan it into flame.  Because it's important.  Because it matters, and you matter.    Because you can.  We can.  Let's hustle, and keep hustling.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be touching up The Light Between Us, and then diving back into my Celtic-ish creation.  In short, I'll be doing the work.   

What about you?

note: sometime between the time when I read the one-star reviews and now (prior to the publication of this post) one of said reviews disappeared.  not sure what happened there.  ah well. 

13 comments:

  1. Great post, Beth!!! I think the copy editing thing is one of my biggest fears as well! I'm planning on launching my first novel later this year, and while I don't think my first days will be as amazing as yours, following your journey has made me feel more confident and excited for when it's my time :-) So thank you! I've got your book and am looking forward to reading it!!

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    1. Thanks, Cassie! Hit me up when you're looking for beta readers, or if you want to do a manuscript swap. So excited for you!!! Also, editing is annoooooying lol.

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  2. Hey! I am very proud of you. I think you are great and today during church I got caught reading your book when I was pretending to read along to the Bible verses because I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! So, good job there. Seriously, I just beam when I read it because MY FRIEND WROTE THIS! AND IT IS GOOD! AND I AM INTO IT!

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    1. Bahaha this TOTALLY MAKES MY DAY (week!). Love it. So excited to hug you soon!

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  3. I started reading the kindle edition, but decided to wait until I get the actual book in my hands. And although I did notice some errors in what I read, I would never have brought it rudely to your attention….I got the book to read your writing and the story, not to nitpick it apart by errors. My brother does that kind of thing…corrects people's spelling on his posts and such…and it makes me mad. To me it makes him look as if he thinks he's better than the one who made the mistake. (And I've told him that!). That's how I see those who gave you a bad review all because of some editing issues. Bluck. To heck with them. Any of them ever write a novel and put it out there for all to see? Probably not. I respect you greatly for doing what you have done, for following your dream!!

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  4. I noticed some of the errors, but I have also noticed errors in books by Nora Roberts. Shit happens! The story was what was important to me, not the grammar, and the story was beautiful! I think your plan for manuscript swapping next time is fabulous. It always helps to have a fresh pair of eyes look over something you have written because after a while your mind automatically "fixes" mistakes. Can't wait until your next book!

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    1. Thanks, Rian! It's so crazy how many editing mistakes can slip through, even in traditionally published books. Oh the human brain! It's looking out for us. ;)

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  5. Hey Beth,
    Sorry it didn't go better. It's so easy for those errors to slip through, unfortunately.

    On the plus side, it's really wonderful to heard your totally open and honest post about it. Very refreshing. So refreshing, that it has made me want to read your book. I just downloaded a sample to my tablet. I'm anxious to start it - errors or not. Take care and best wishes,
    Bob Wilson

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    1. Wow thanks, Bob! That means a lot! I hope you enjoy.

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  6. There were two spelling errors that I noticed in "The Circle" by Dave Eggers. Dave Eggers! Thanks for this post. I cringe every time there's an error on my blog after it's been published and shared on Twitter. It happens a lot. Thanks for this honest post. I'm in your Story Sessions group!

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  7. Girl I know this all too well. I cringe when I remember to read the reviews. I had some less than thrilling ones too on my indie book. Good for you for being brave. I remember wanting to hide too, publishing your words makes one feel extremely vulnerable! There are things I'd do differently too.

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  8. I still have not received any reviews at all on my book and I am fearing it. It's so difficult to put your work out there, and that itself is a huge accomplishment, no matter what. I am always finding typos in books, both ebook and print. Even from the big wig publishing companies. In fact, I was reading a book last night and the last two words of a sentence were repeated a second time. (So it read something like, "I put the key in the ignition the ignition,") Again, this was a traditionally published book, but of course people love to tear everything apart whenever possible. I never care about typos, because I know, as a writer, how easy it is to miss them. A reader should care about the story. Critics love to hate things. I think a lot of times, some people really don't want to like the book they're reading, almost as if they're just looking for things to complain about. I always try to remember that some of my very favorite books have terrible reviews and there are readers who despise their work. So no book is for every one. That's why there are so many. ;)
    As for copy editing, I had my book edited by Createspace for $0.016 a word. I paid around $1375 for about 85,000 words and was very satisfied with the quality of the service. Just a thought! ;)
    Good luck to you, Beth. As a writer, always believe in your story and trust yourself. No matter what anyone else says! You did it! :)

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"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King