Lessons Learned from All Saints’ Day of the Dead

“If I had a nickel for every mistake I made . . . well, I’d have a lot of nickels, I’ll tell you that much.”

Me

I’m thrilled that I was able to meet my goal of getting All Saints’ Day of the Dead, my second book, published before Halloween. It’s available now on Amazon in both electronic and paperback form. And even better, I picked up a handful of lessons learned from the experience that I’m certain will be helpful to me next time, and perhaps to you even sooner. 

So let me hit you with three big take aways: lessons on scheduling, working with your editor, and Amazon categories. It’s late here, and I still have to get a run in before I start cooking dinner, so I’ll keep these fairly brief. 

Scheduling. This is the big one, and if I’m not mistaken, I spent some time on this general topic in the blog last week . . . but let me try to shed some specific, actionable light on the importance of planning the production cycle for your next book. 

I think the first question on this front is, Is there a specific date or time of year you want to put the book out? If the answer is yes, to my mind the next thing to consider is do you want to get the book out this year or next. All Saints is a kind of Halloween read, and from the beginning I’ve been driving towards getting out before the holiday in 2021. I only published Tattoos and Tans, my first book, this summer, so I knew from the very beginning that the schedule was going to be very tight. And it was . . . so, no surprises there. 

But the thing is, I actually had extra time . . . it’s just that I squandered it all. There were several weeks over the last few months in which I wasn’t actively writing anything. The gaps occurred between drafts. You know how it goes.. You work hard on a draft, diligently sit at your desk and do the work for several weeks at a time, and then when you finally finish the draft, you take a little break . . . divorce yourself from the project for a while. You know, refresh. 

Taking a break between stages of the project makes a lot of sense, but in my case, if I had to do it over again, I would have shaved maybe 30% off of those break times in order to give myself more time at the very end of the process. 

The other big mistake I made on scheduling was that, basically, I didn’t really write out a production plan. For the first book I was very good about doing that. I had a whole series of sequential deadlines mapped out on the calendar and, for the most part, I held myself and others to that schedule. And as a result, I had more time at the end to really go over the final manuscript. This go ‘round I got lazy. I didn’t even have a “drop dead” date by which I need to have the manuscript 100% complete. 

And as a result I ended up at least two weeks behind schedule, and so I didn’t have the time I really needed to go over the final manuscript with a fine tooth comb. I found myself in a position where I had to basically work for four days straight to get the book ready. And in the process, I missed some details. And so now I’m in the process of fixing those little discrepancies after the book is already published . . . and that sucks. Trust me. 

Bottom line: work your schedule such that you will have at least two or three weeks to do a final, leisurely read-through of your manuscript. You’ll end up with a better product, and you will feel far less stressed. 

Working with Your Editor. This is another kind of rooky mistake I made. And it’s related to my overall scheduling oversight. I’m almost embarrassed to even write this, it’s so obvious, but perhaps my confession will help another writer out there, so I’ll go ahead and cop to it. 

You have to understand that every edit another person makes to your writing will affect the overall sound of the language. I did not fully appreciate this fact until now. 

What happened was, because I was under the gun, when I got my “final” copy-edited manuscript back from my editor, I did a “first pass” in which I accepted hundreds of “minor” edits. These included things like commas, dialogue tags, and contractions. In my zeal to clean the manuscript up as fast as possible, I was hasty in accepting many of the changes. And after the fact, once the book was published and I read through some sections of the book more carefully, I regretted the way some of those changes made the language sound. 

So the first piece of advice on dealing with an editor’s comments (and I’m really talking about the copy edit stage here) is to realize there every change, no matter how small, will change the flow of the language. Don’t take anything for granted. Take your time. And read it out loud too (a topic I’ve covered in other blogs). 

The other thing to say on the subject of editors is about the natural tension between grammar and the way people actually speak. Again, this is kind of an obvious thing to discuss. So I won’t belabor the point. Except to say that, depending on the background of your editor, she may place a higher value on grammar than you do. If you’re not careful, you could end up with a manuscript that’s grammatically perfect . . . and boring as hell.

Amazon Categories. I’m not going to say too much on this topic because I have not actually tried it for myself. However, I have learned and it certainly appears to be true that Amazon will allow you to add up to seven additional categories for your book if you ask them

If you haven’t come across this yet, here’s the basic lay of the land. When you upload your book to Amazon, you will be able to choose just two categories for your book. Fiction>General, for example. That would count as one category. But I’ve read seemingly reputable articles in the last few days that say if you contact Amazon and ask for your book to be added to additional categories, they will grant you up to seven additional ones. The help menu on the KDP website appears to back this up. 

Getting yourself into the right Amazon category appears to be critically important. It’s all about competition. Big fish like James Patterson and Stephen King are floating around the big category ponds . . . but if you can get into some of the smaller niche ponds, the competition isn’t as sharp. 

Again, I’m only just now really getting into this, so I don’t have much more to offer on the subject, but it’s worth checking out. I have actually scouted out some additional categories that I think may work better for All Saints’ Day of the Dead, and so I’m gonna give it a shot later this week . . . and I’ll let you know. 
Until then, please consider buying the book. The Kindle version is priced at $6.66 (I couldn’t resist). Buy it here.

Published by New Bayou Books

JR Reed started New Bayou Books to spark a revolution in Louisiana literature. The goal of the company is simple: to great writers out of the shadows to carry on the Louisiana literary tradition.

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