The Things A Writer Can Learn In Six Months

I am pleased to have urban fantasy and horror author Amy Braun as a guest poster on the blog today. Amy was kind enough to share what she’s learned as a new author this year. Read on for some great info, even if you’ve been in the writing game for a while.

The Things a Writer Can Learn in Six Months  

by Amy Braun

When 2015 started, I decided to take the leap: I would publish a full length novel by myself. I was proud of my standalone novella, Needfire, which served as a way for me to test the waters of the independent world. But of course, the next step was harder.

I didn’t go to school for writing. I don’t have any mind of independent business. Marketing and press boggle my mind. I thought I was going to gain readers and a following by continuing my method of trying my hand at short story submissions. I’ve had some great successes that way– my stories being favored by readers and even winning an Editors award for my macabre short story “Dark Intentions And Blood” in the AMOK! Anthology– but it wasn’t enough. My muse got a little greedy, and I wanted more.

Path of the Horseman became more than a standalone novel to me when I wrote it in 2014’s NaNoWriMo. I knew the moment I finished it that I wanted to share it with as many readers as I could. I took a risk with an emerging cover artist, worked with an editor I trusted, and chose to release it with a major distribution/publishing company that has helped thousands of independent authors get their work out to the world.

Cover for Braun's novel Path of the Horseman
Cover for Braun’s novel Path of the Horseman

Needless, to say, when the release date came, I was both excited and nervous as Hell. I was given a guide about how to go about promoting my book. I learned that nothing was free, patience is an agonizing virtue, and you still have to hunt for acknowledgement.

Despite all that, I gained more positive feedback than I could have imagined, and not just from my family. People I’ll probably never meet praised my book and left reviews that humbled and honored me. I know that you can’t please everyone, and sooner or later I’ll get a negative review that will leave me doubting, but to know the risk would be rewarded brought me a joy that’s hard to describe.

So I took another risk, and released a novel that’s beyond precious to me. Demon’s Daughter, the first in my Cursed series, has been with me for years. Like Path of the Horseman, I know I’ve done something special with it and have received great feedback on it. But this series is my proverbial baby. I’m watching two of my most beloved characters– Constance and Dro– take their first steps into the literary world. I don’t know how they’ll do, and it’s a little worrying to hear what readers will think about a story I’ve poured my soul into.

That being said, I wanted to give Demon’s Daughter the release it deserved. That meant paying extra to work with a fabulous cover design company and go through the trials of printing and proofing physical copies, and learning the joys of proper book formatting. Oh, did I say joys? I meant agonies. I’m not kidding when I say the hardest part of printing paper books for me was getting the damn formatting to line up. I ordered at least two copies of each book, none of which were free. And don’t even get me started on headers and footers. So I learned the hard way to look at each book with excruciating detail before approving said proof. And if you’re going to print with Createspace, have a CMYK version of your cover available so your book cover isn’t filled with sharp, angry colors fighting to share space on the paper.

Demon's Daughter cover Ooooh...ahhhh...
Demon’s Daughter cover

Most recently, I learned the value of media kits and submitting queries for reviews. I’m still waiting on some of them, but looking back I should have sent out requests for reviews before I started publishing. That being said, I have a couple reviewers lined up who are generally excited about reading my work and have a significant following that will hopefully trickle over to me. I didn’t choose this career for the money, but it’s not easy working for free.

These are lessons I wish I had known earlier, but I’m new to the writing world. I’m learning from my mistakes, and I know I will be better for it when my next release– the sequel to Demon’s Daughter– comes out in December. Like I said, I don’t do this for the money. While my dream is to walk into my favorite bookstore and see my book on the shelves (or even better, see someone reading that book and surprising the hell out of them by explaining that I wrote it), I would be perfectly happy writing independently for the rest of my life.

The year is barely half over, and I know more lessons, good and bad, are on the way. But the most important thing I’ve learned so far is to keep going. I’ve had days where I’ve been frustrated, days where I’ve been lazy, and days where I couldn’t find motivation to write at all (AKA the worst days ever). But when I have those days, I look up at my desk and see the two printed books resting against the wall. I think about the entire process it took to create them, and how endlessly satisfying it is to see them there, knowing I can do it again. Writing a book is a long, sometimes torturous process. But the end result, no matter how you look at it?




Amy Braun is the author of the urban fantasy novels, Path of the Horseman and Demon’s Daughter. She’s been published in anthologies by publishers such as April Moon Books, Ragnarok Publishing, Mocha Memoirs Press, and Breaking Fate Publishing. To find out more about Amy, go to her blog literarybraun. Or you can find her elsewhere online at:

Graveyard Shift Sister: Me!

Whenever I do an interview and review for the Graveyard Shift Sister website, I also post it here in case there’s someone who follows my blog, but isn’t connected to me on Facebook or Twitter.

Since the last post was about me, I’d neglected to do that.

While I have no issue singing the praises of other authors, I have a hard time promoting my own work. A part of me feels like it’s tooting my own horn and I should be more modest. But blogs and books on writing (and my advice to other authors) state you must get over that.

Gretchen Palmer in the Tales from the Crypt episode "Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow".
Gretchen Palmer in the Tales from the Crypt episode “Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow”.

It takes a lot for me to go against my natural tendencies and promote myself and my work.  Thankfully, the super talented Sumiko Saulson was willing to help.  Sumiko interviewed me via telephone and it was great to be able to chat about writing, trends in horror and my own inspirations.

Read the entire Graveyard Shift Sisters interview with me here.

Authors, You Need This: A Press Kit

In promoting my latest book release, Spook Lights, I was asked by a blogger to send my press kit along with an advance reading copy (ARC) of the book. I said, “Of course.”

And then I panicked.

I didn’t have a press kit, sometimes called a media kit. I had a bio that I had written years ago, when I sent in my first few stories for publication, and re-written with each story submission. I’d polished it up a few times, but it was essentially the same bio.

So I went to work using the power of the Internet to find out what a press kit included. In my research into press kits, specifically ones for independent authors, I found I didn’t need anyone to write one for me, I could do it myself. But it would take a bit of work on the outset. Believe me, you don’t want to have to start this from scratch more than once.

No, I won't.  Well, maybe with the blackjack. But not with the hookers.
No, I won’t.
Well, maybe with the blackjack. But not with the hookers.

Maybe every other indie author out there has a press kit, but I didn’t. But I had one by the end of the day. Don’t wait until your work comes out to get your press kit together—do it before you start marketing your book because it can be an enormous amount of information to compile. Even for someone like me, who didn’t think I had anything to put in a press kit as Spook Lights is my first short story collection.

I also found it’s a great way to recap your work. I’d thought I wasn’t getting much done with my writing over the past year or so as I hadn’t completed my novel in the timeframe I’d set for myself. But in putting this press kit together, I found I’d been more active than I’d realized on social media: doing interviews, reviewing books, guesting on podcasts, and the like.

A basic press kit for a writer contains:

  • A one-pager on you as an author. This is your bio on steroids. Make it as interesting as you can, but remain professional. Also include the basics on the book you’re promoting: title, cover image, genre, page count, synopsis.
  • Press Release: One page on your release and what makes it special
  • Synopsis of and praise for your book: This is where to add those blurbs from readers on how your book impacted them.
  • Sample Q&A: This can be in the form of links to interviews you’ve done online or in a document you’ve created.

I’m certainly not an expert on press kits from the research I’ve done. But I want to stress the importance of having a press kit before you need one. Maybe you keep all of your interviews, guest posts, articles, book reviews, and other evidence of your work in one place, but I hadn’t until now. Read below for links to some of the sites I used to get my press kit ready.

Be sure to keep your press kit updated and have it ready to send to bloggers and editors–whoever contacts you for it. (There is a way to contact you on your site, right? Surprisingly, many websites and blogs don’t have one.)

Authors: Do you have a press kit for your work? What do you have in it?