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Coming to China to teach was the most bizarre choice  I could have made.  It was incongruous.  Wrong.  And I could feel that.  Standing in front of a class–when I could barely drag myself to one in college–seemed .  Don’t get me wrong, I did well in college.  I got good grades and graduated magna cum laude.  But that had nothing to do with going to class–which I didn’t do so well.  I’m not talking about oversleeping every now and then or skipping out to do something cool like catch the shoe sale at Payless.  I’m talking sleeping till 11 for a 10:00 class, skipping day after day to marathon SG1, or skipping class just to take a long shower.  While my grades hovered around 95%, my presence in class hovered around 50%.

And then I became a teacher.

It was weird.

Still is, in fact.  However.  I get up in the morning–on time now (usually). I put on my least frayed pants over some heels.  I try to remember to brush my hair before walking out the door.  And I go to class.  To teach.  Because now, I am a professional.  Or at least, I do well to pretend.

I don’t know if I can be a professional writer.  OK, let me say that again, I don’t know if I can be a professional writer.

With my writing moving along, I’m finding myself in a similar position as I did two and a half years when I found myself, for the first time, headed to a classroom not for the purpose of sleeping in the back, but for the purpose of standing in the front, awake and in charge.  Don’t get me wrong.  I want to be a writer, and a professional one at that.  I want to sell my stories, make money, and support myself with my fiction.  And I’m all good with that.  I’m just not sure about the rest.  About the other things that go into the word professional.  But as I consider the transition from “she-who-puts-some-shit-up-online” to the “professional-writer-who-sells-stories,” I wonder how I can get up in the morning and pretend to be that professional.

Because that’s the only way to do it:  To get up in the morning and be a professional.

Well, it is the only way for me, anyway.  For the more traditional-minded there’s the validation of unreadable contracts, deadlines, and editors’ red pens.  But I only answer to myself, and if I want to be an author, there’s exactly one thing I have to do: just be one.

So as I move along with my first novel to see the light of day, I wonder what professional authordom looks like.  Sometime around May or June, as my current time line goes, I will be attempting the plunge, and again I find myself unprepared.

There is so much to do.

I’ve got the writing bit down.  I’ve got the recommendations for freelance editors, I know the places to get a good critique or beta. I won’t say I’m not concerned about the quality of my writing as an indie author.  But at least I understand that.  I understand writing and editing and I can do that.

But in the professional world, its not just ok for you to be good, you have to look good as well.

And that’s hard for me.

This is currently my writing’s face to the world:

Yeah.  I know.

Yeah.  I said I know.

See, I’ve been working on the writing part of being a writer.  And that being all well and good, I know that if I want to jump into the realm of professional authordom, I’ve got to do better at the whole looking good thing.  This makes me panic.  Just a little.

But this is the first step of many on the road to professional. Before I can sell books, I have to make books that are presentable.  Before I can market books, I have to make books that are marketable.  Before I call myself a real author I have to step up to the place and make my work look like a real author’s work.  Before I… before I anything, I have to get this whole image-presentation-appearance-blah-blah-blah whatnot figured out.

And sometimes just thinking about it makes me want to remain forever as “she-who-puts-some-shit-up-online” and forget the whole professional writer business.

But then again, I never thought I’d get paid to stand in front of a class either.

Oh and here’s a nice picture of a flower to quell the rising panic any other blossoming writers may be feeling (sorry).  Purple, because it’s relaxing.

9 Responses to “Book Covers And Professional Authordom Arrrg.”

  1. A.M.Harte

    Being an indie author can be overwhelming; I always say you have to be more than just an author, as you’re your own marketer, editor, gatekeeper, etc

    I’m intrigued – what is your upcoming novel about? And you’re planning on charging for this one (unlike Stories About Things, which I remember being free)?

    • aeliusblythe

      In short, it’s a sci-fi about a would-be suicide bomber who has second thoughts and ends up being manipulated into informing on his family.

      The first draft is actually already being put up, bit by bit, on Pandamian. But as far as whether the finished product will be free or not… I’m not really sure. Ideally, of course I’d like to keep all my ebooks free and try to sell POD copies to make money (and possibly through donations.) But from what I hear it’s harder for a newbie to get people to fork over cash for a physical book than for an ebook. So I may experiment with the $0.99-2.99 price range and see if I can sell books that way.

      To be honest, I haven’t got the selling part of the plan down yet at all! I’m really not sure what business model is best. I want to build credibility, and to encourage people to give my work a chance–which is probably the best reason to go with the free model. But I also want to just see if I COULD make money, to see if people MIGHT be willing to buy my books–something I won’t know unless I try. I’m trying to weigh the merits of both plans and to collect experiences from others for insight, but to be honest people’s experiences are so all over the board that it’s hard to decide what’s the best way!

      edit: but I should add that I intend to always keep a free option for the ebook, such as uploading it to TUEBL or a torrent site so it would still be available for people who didn’t want to pay. Ultimately, I want to have my work out there, especially as I’m just starting out, to lay the groundwork for new and better projects in the future.

      • A.M.Harte

        Ah yes, I had a quick look at Skyland. Haven’t had the chance to read yet though.

        What some authors do (and what I am going to do with Above Ground) is leave the first draft up as a piece of webfiction, available online. If people want the more polished version, they will be able to buy the ebook/print version when it comes out.

        From my experience, it is easier for an unknown author to sell as an ebook, partly because of the lower price point. For Hungry For You, my ebook sales outnumber my print sales almost 4:1

        Re: credibility, the problem is that — for those un-web-savvy or fearful of creative commons (ie, most people) — free = bad. So if you go for a free model, it’s more difficult to gain credibility.

        I reckon it’s because when people pay for something, they automatically think it’s more credible because otherwise they’d feel stupid for having paid!

        Why don’t you run both parallel? Keep it online as webfiction, submit it to Smashwords/Kindle/Nook etc as paid-for. You can point your webfiction readers to the sales sites if they want to offer support.

        • aeliusblythe

          Re: credibility, the problem is that — for those un-web-savvy or fearful of creative commons (ie, most people) — free = bad. So if you go for a free model, it’s more difficult to gain credibility.

          That makes sense. I guess it’s just part of the whole professional image to put a price on something and compete along with other professionals. There is probably no harm in using both, experimenting, and seeing what works best – at least it will give me a good idea of what to do in the future.

          Thank you for the advice!

    • aeliusblythe

      That is actually really helpful! I’ll probably try making a few simple covers myself, maybe gather opinions on them, and use them until I can get a really great professional one done. Covers make me nervous because I am really not a visual person. But I like that you emphasize simplicity in your post. Seems like good advice.

        • aeliusblythe

          Huh. I’m not sure–I don’t know if I know enough about covers in the first place to pick out any topic in particular to know more about! Do you know anything about proportions, like text-to-imagery ratios, or spacing, things like that? I’ve read some authors saying that little tiny differences in, for example, title placement can make a difference in how professional a cover looks.

          But I don’t really know, I’d be happy to have any kind of information at this point!



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