Which Way to Oz Again?

Imagine if you will that your journey toward debut is through the Land of Oz. If returning the captured broomstick to the Wizard in gleaming Emerald City is representative of pub day, then the yellow brick road would therefore be indicative of the path leading to such. Except the yellow brick road is not as much of a straight shot as you would think. Starting with its unraveling spiral from the center of Munchkin land, the path is filled with twists, turns, and encounters with characters. Both those in your head and those in real life.

Then of course, there’s the – recurring at times – point where you reach a juncture and aren’t sure which way to go next. A clear sign, a list of priorities, or yes, even a scarecrow could work wonders in these instances. Instead, we end up with the guidance the guy pictured gives us.

Thanks for nothing, jerk.

Yes, I did just call a beloved 1939 character from one of the most iconic movies of all time a jerk. It’s not personal though, it’s metaphorical, because what I’m (trying) to say here with this elaborate setup is that at times, it can feel like you don’t know whether you’re coming or going. Do I turn left or right? Which task should I tackle next? What do you mean I shouldn’t pick that apple?

Granted, there are people to turn to that are much more useful than our stuffed with straw friend with no brain. Beta readers, critique partners, fellow authors, and – if you went traditional like I did – agents, editors, publicists, etc. are all cogs in the wheel of the publication cycle. While these assets are invaluable in their expertise, ultimately it falls to you, the author, to decide how and when you’re going to make the things happen. If you’re anything like me, <cough, introvert> – sorry, something stuck in my throat there – then you also like to figure that balance out on your own, even with guidance in hand.

Take my own list of comings and goings. Beta reader phase for my sequel. Edits incorporating the feedback I’m receiving. Coordination on marketing and publicity for book one. Reaching out to book reviewers, podcasters, guest blogs. Cover art design for book two. Supporting fellow authors, through reading their books, attending interviews or events, and helping to promote whenever possible through my social media platforms.

Social media. Shoot.

There’s my big three: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Then TikTok came along, and #booktok became a thing, so now we’re producing videos over there. The uncertainty with a little blue bird prompted the exodus or at least redundancy to new platforms like Hive, Mastodon, and/or Counter Social, making it necessary to learn their tributes and customs. There’s the photo and video editing capabilities, whether in app or as separate entities, that have to be familiarized and utilized. Oh yeah, and a website. If you have one you have to keep up with that too. Blog posts. Newsletter. Graphics. Replies to contact form inquiries.

ARCs for book one are out now, slowly making it into the hands of real life people that will actually be reading my words. This generates reviews, another facet to keep track of in order to help capitalize on the good ones for your marketing. Have I mentioned writing yet? No I haven’t, but that needs to happen too.

In order to keep up with the production cycle, or as I prefer to do, stay ahead of it, I need to be writing. In the here and now this means the tasks for beginning book three. Outlining. Research and research requests through official channels. Hell, just thinking about the story that I want to put together takes up stretches of minutes at times. That’s all before a single word even appears on the page, which of course is what we ultimately need to produce. Ninety to a hundred thousand of them.

I realize at this point that this might come across as complaining. I’m not. I promise I’m not. I’m merely trying to illustrate all of the things that are happening on my road to publishing. A proverbial peek behind the curtain, except in this case it can feel like the enormous fire-spewing floating head is back there instead of a peckish old Kansas man born and bred in the heart of the western wilderness. I am incredibly fortunate to be where I am, and grateful to be traveling down this path, and I know and appreciate that so many out there wouldn’t hesitate to trade places with me in a heartbeat.

Whenever I hit one of the benchmarks on this journey – cover art being released, turning edits back in, ARCs being released – people ask me how I feel in those moments. Cliche as it may sound, it honestly hasn’t hit me yet, because there is another task that needs attention. Another item that requires dedication in order to further make this dream a reality. It’s something that I doubt many of us consider, or even know about, when we start creating the worlds and stories that we do. Even if we do, we (or at least I) are willing to take it all on because this is what we want more than anything.

Still, taken into account with all the rest life has to offer – the 9-5, shuttling kids to practices, holiday shopping and visits, eating, sleeping, breathing (that’s the key, to keep breathing) – the comings and goings can twist you around worse than the evil intentions of a witch trying to eat your dog. In those moments, I say we find our courage, dig deep into our hearts, use our brains, and toss a giant bucket of water on that son of a gun. I have a feeling that if we do, that list will melt away like the hooked-nose H20 adverse antagonist that it is.

So, until next time folks, have a safe and happy holiday season. Enjoy the time with friends and family. Don’t sweat this stuff, it all works out eventually. Deep breaths, and always remember those fabled words of wisdom, “The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.”

Now…let’s get back to work.

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