What I Learned My First Year as an Author

What I Learned My First Year as an Author

by Janine R. Pestel

I began writing in February 2016 and have been writing for a little over a year. In the past 14 months, I have self-published one novella, one short story compilation, one novel, and four short stories. People have told me that for only writing a year, I have published a lot. Honestly, I don’t know if that is a lot or not.

Pestel books

One thing I have learned is how to write better. My very first work was the novella. When I initially released it, it was titled Mission to Olympus Mons. I was pretty proud of it. I sold a few copies. Finally, one day, I received my first review. It was a one-star The Mons Connectionreview. I was devastated. I actually took it personally for a day or so; then I realized everything the reviewer had said was correct.

He said it had a lot of grammar errors – it did. He said some of it was sketchy – it was. He said it came off as though I knew nothing of Mars – it did. I had learned my first lesson: Pay attention to what you are writing and for heaven’s sake, EDIT your work!

I have since rewritten the story and republished it. Now it is titled The Mons Connection and it is getting much better reviews! I almost wish I could find out who gave me the one-star review so I could thank him. If he hadn’t done that, I would not have rewritten the book.

After unpublishing the book from Amazon, I rewrote it and sent it to a professional editor who told me there were too many errors for him to correct and still charge a fee that was reasonable. He gave me a clue as to what the errors were, so I set about trying to find them all.

I finally stumbled upon the first piece of software I would use for editing: Autocrit. I love this tool! It has helped me become a better writer by finding all of my overused words. Seeing all the overused words makes me think of other ways to say the same thing, which keeps my writing “fresh,” for lack of a better word.

I was already using Scrivner to write and compile, so now I had Scrivner and Autocrit in my arsenal. But I still needed to correct grammar errors.

Some fellow authors told me about two things they use for editing grammar: Ginger and Grammarly.

Now when I am working on my book, I use Autocrit, Ginger, Grammarly, and a thesaurus from WordWeb. I am now receiving reviews that no longer mention grammar errors.

I’ve also learned that Amazon is not the only place to self-publish. There are plenty of places. I have self-published on Draft2Digital, Smashwords, and Pronoun. Currently, I am only using Amazon and Pronoun. Even though Pronoun, like Draft2Digital and Smashwords, will distribute my work to Amazon if I want it to, I prefer to publish to Amazon myself.

Additionally, I learned about the importance of using beta readers. These are people to whom I send the book before it is published. They read it and tell me not only what they think, but if they notice any errors. Very important people to me. So important that they are mentioned by name in all my books on a special “Thank You” page. I am currently looking for more beta readers for my new book. If you are interested, you can apply at this link: http://bit.ly/2loeIRL.

The last things that I have learned in the past 14 months are how to publish my work in paperback and audiobook. For my audiobooks, I use the ACX platform – which is owned by Amazon – and I go with their exclusive distribution. I go with that mainly because the royalty paid is higher, at 40%

For paperbacks, I am using Createspace – another Amazon-owned company – because they distribute my books to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and myriad other locations. But, when I need books for events like book signings and such, I use a company called Author2Market. These guys do great work and are extremely friendly and easy to work with. Also, since they are located in Phoenix, and I live in Mesa, Arizona, I just have to make a 20-minute drive to pick up my order when it is ready. (Send an email before you sign up to see if you qualify for a discount on printing services.)

Well, that’s it for this post. See you all again next month.

Author of The Mons Connection and Infected and Other Short Stories as well as short Janine Pestelstories in the scifi / occult / horror genre(s) and an upcoming paranormal / occult series. Always interested in science fiction, action adventure, and comedy, Janine tried her hand at writing a book back in the 1970s but did not have the direction she needed to complete it. Now, many years later, she has the drive and direction to write a complete book. Her only regret is that it took her this long to get going. Find her on Facebook.

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1 Response to What I Learned My First Year as an Author

  1. Such good advice! It’s a shame you had to go through the agony to finally achieve the ecstasy. Thanks for sharing.


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