Where Angels Can’t Follow: Book Birthday

Good morning, y’all. My mom likes to start these book birthdays off with issues that will give me mini-heart attacks at 6AM. (She means well and will be spamming all of her friends with my books all day.) “Your pre-orders aren’t being delivered correctly.” Or “people can’t pre-order on iPhones”. With a bit of Amazon consulting, it was sorted by 7AM, but I was almost relieved when Windows told me it had to configure a feature update. (Incidentally, if you have this problem with a pre-order, don’t delete your app and restart your phone over and over. Just delete the book and download it fresh. It will still be in your Kindle library if you delete it from the device.) Since I was helpless due to the Windows gods, I went for a four mile run listening to the catchy, fast songs from Hamilton. It was just the thing for a book birthday.

I get caught up, probably like most artists, in how well a thing is being received. Do I have reviews? Are they good? Did people love my characters? Did I sell enough to keep doing this? In the end, it doesn’t matter. I give my best words and best characters to my readers. I want to give you the same places to crawl into that I have–beautiful worlds with the kinds of people we want to know.

One of my favorite quotes about creating art is advice from Andy Warhol, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” I’ve been taking Mr. Warhol’s advice, and I have over a hundred pages of Iron Spirits done now. Here’s to knocking out the next two hundred.

I hope you find characters and lines in each of my books that sneak their way into the channels of your brain and that my books are a refuge when you need it. Happy reading!

Indie Publishing: How to Handle Inappropriate Messages

So, you did it. You published a book! Congratulations! And your author photo is on your site, and you look professional, well-kempt, maybe a little hot.  Good for you!

At least, good for you, until some random person finds your photo on your author page or your website. And you’re new to this, so there are not 200 messages sitting in your author inbox. In fact, that guy who just messaged asking to be your significant other (maybe a little more crudely) might even hurt the response rate on your Facebook page if you ignore the message. *beats head into desk*

You have a few options. You can respond politely thanking people for their interest and then direct them to your latest publications. It’s a response and can be a form one that you copy into those messages. Maybe you’ll get some sales, too? I’ve got my fingers crossed for you. Maybe that’s the end of the weirdness.

You can also just not engage. You’re an author. You’re probably a recluse who wants minimal social interaction. Why on Earth would you invite conversation with a cretin? People know authors are not going to respond to messages promptly. We’re tempestuous and creative and introverted. But it might not be the best decision for your business.

So, you decide to send the information about your book to the weird person. And now you’ve gotten a dozen messages you weren’t looking for. Somehow you’re this guy’s poetess and angel and who knows what else. Why can’t he even spell your name correctly?! I’ve heard about women in my writing community who had actual stalkers who found their address, about people who created new profiles to get around bans, and about unsolicited pictures messaged to authors.

And you might be thinking, This isn’t Tinder! It’s my professional page. Why?! First, you can always respond to those pictures with a microscope emoji. Just sayin’. And second, all jokes aside, it’s a good idea to just ban people who look like they are headed in that direction before they get the chance to continue. You don’t have time for that, and chances are good that someone who can’t spell your name probably isn’t going to appreciate the word “phoneme” in the first chapter of your book.

The goal is to sell books. So, keep that in the front of your mind when navigating messages. If the harassing messages don’t stop, then make them stop. Ban the sender. You have writing and marketing to do. Don’t engage if it isn’t helping you reach the goal. Good luck, and I wish you an inbox with raves about your book and no misspelled compliments about your hair.

 

Indie Publishing: Book Dedications

Let’s talk book dedications. They are a little bit like tattoos. Once they are out in the universe, that one moment is there forever, for all to see. I didn’t realize what an issue this was until I was newly divorced, and many of my would-be suitors thought they’d order a copy of my debut novel–dedicated to my ex-husband. Oh, the hell I was given and the blushing that ensued. *facepalm* I thought, at least his name isn’t on your arm. You didn’t tattoo your wedding band on, Jessi, so there’s that.

I got more cautious on round two, dedicating to my kids. I’m always going to love my kids. No one will give me hell for that dedication. Phew. 

Round three: After my attack, I was diagnosed with PTSD. The people who held my hands during panic attacks and talked to me when I was at my most unstable got the dedication. Crabb and Alexander are friends who didn’t leave my side. Their faith in me was unshakable when I wasn’t sure I would ever be better than I was at that moment after my attack.

So, how do I pick which people get the dedication when I have been surrounded by a bounty? I start thinking about which people fit with which book’s themes. It’s not a gratitude list put into emphatic order. For me, it’s about which person fits into a slice of my life that belongs with the book.

Do I have to dedicate books from here on out to every friend and family member I’ve got, skipping men like they’re faithless and ephemeral? No. I don’t.

Would I dedicate a book to a significant other again? Absolutely. I’d do that all over again. Those people are already tattooed on me whether anyone can see it or not and whether they choose to stay in my life. I don’t care what anyone thinks about that. 

Dedications are my arm sleeves; they’ve got a hell of a story, too. And I won’t erase a single one, though I easily could hide any from future readers. I hope if you write your own, you write it like it’s in stone and in you. One author to another, I’ll admire your tattoo.

 

How to Help Your Favorite Indie Authors

Some of you have asked how to help an indie author, and I’m flattered that I wrote words that made you want to push for my success. “How Can I Help?” is such an awesome question.

So, here are a few things that one person can quickly do to help their favorite self-published/indie authors.

  1. If you love the book you read, write a review. I usually need reviews on Amazon and Goodreads if you feel so inclined. (No spoilers!) It lets people who don’t know me–and don’t know I have a graduate degree in English–see that I know what I’m doing, that I can craft a story.
  2. Like their social media pages. I have Facebook only for now, but am considering Instagram. It’s the best way to stay informed about any new updates with my books.
  3. Like their posts and comment. Having a dialogue on a business page is important. If you thought a blog post was amazing or if it gave you insight into being an author, interact on the page.
  4. Share posts about upcoming book releases if you think your friends might be interested. I had friends who shared pictures of my book and tagged me after it was published. It is pretty thrilling to see the hard work of a novel in someone else’s hands.
  5. Favorite their website if you’re not really into Facebook or social media.
  6. Facilitate introductions. If you think your book club would love the author’s book, arrange a Q&A session with the author. It can be amazing for your group and will likely make the author’s month.
  7. Attend book launch events. Pre-coronavirus, this would have been a book signing or book launch party. It is beautiful to see people show up to buy your book. And many of these events are virtual now with Facebook live parties and launch events, so it’s easier to attend than ever. (No make-up or nice clothes required.)