I’ve always loved fantasy. I love the excitement of magic and other worlds and pushing the boundaries of what we know. However, I realized pretty quickly growing up that all of the books I read were missing several important elements: Heroines I could aspire to be. Societies I would want to live in. Armor that actually covered all of your body parts. I was bored by damsels in distress and boob plate before I’d reached high school. So, I started writing the stories I kept looking for and couldn’t find.
It wasn’t always easy. English is a very patriarchal language, and as I created more and more matriarchal societies, I had to create a dialect that fit the world. Originally, the stories were just for me, but as I got better at my craft, I slowly let other people start reading them. When I started receiving positive feedback and requests for more, I finally decided to put them out into the world… As the Faoii Chronicles.
My writing journey:
I had completely written, edited, re-edited, and polished The Last Faoii before I ever looked into publishing. The writing part of the process took me roughly three years and was very expository in the beginning. I’m eternally grateful to all the people who helped me with it in those early years to find my voice and realize when enough was enough. I would have produced something very unpolished and childish without the help and advice of my loved ones when I was starting out.
When I finally felt I had something worthy of being read, I signed up with querytracker.net and began querying agents. If you are new to the publishing world, I absolutely recommend Query Tracker. It is a wonderful resource.
The writing industry is a very competitive business. I knew I’d created something worthy, but my querying process was very discouraging in the beginning. I was told on more than one occasion that an all-female cast with a POC protagonist who was also LGBT was simply not marketable, and The Last Faoii was rejected nearly 200 times. I’ve since proven those agents wrong, but at the time I was devastated. So I turned away from traditional publishing and began working with Inkshares, a crowdfund-based indie publisher.
This was, by far, the worst decision I’ve made in my life.
I think that crowdfund-based publishers can work. Kickstarter, Patreon, and several others are wonderful resources for people just starting out. But Inkshares wasn’t like that for me. I worked harder than I’ve ever worked trying to make my book a success, but I was hobbled. I didn’t have control over my Amazon page or the ability to make corrections/changes to the novel. My e-mails consistently went unanswered and I was never able to get a firm response on how many books I’d sold. At one point they were able to give me a number—but it was lower than what I’d personally purchased and sold at cons and Renaissance Faires, so I knew it was inaccurate. To this day, I have no idea how many copies of my debut novel are out in the world and that’s very frustrating.
But I did learn from the entire process. My biggest piece of advice now is this: If you’re looking to publish your work, decide ahead of time what you’re willing to relinquish control over. Maybe all you want to do is write the books and let others do everything after that (though, remember that marketing is going to be on you no matter what happens). Maybe you want a more hybrid approach. Do your research early on and figure out what you want from this process. Otherwise you might find yourself miserable but tied down by a contract you can’t get out of.
It took two years, but the minute my contract was up with Inkshares I pulled my novel and set out to do it on my own. Unfortunately, I can probably never publish The Last Faoii with a traditional publisher now, but it’s still a story I want to tell. So, I’ve learned how to do every step of the process by myself. Writing, editing, typesetting, formatting, cover design… it’s taken a lot of work, but now The Last Faoii is available again and it’s a stronger book with a more beautiful cover than I was able to offer originally. For the first time in my publishing journey, I’m happy, and I’m making consistent royalties.
I’m also taking what I learned from the first book to better prepare the launch of my second. Faoii Betrayer will be available in the summer of 2020 and I want it to be a smoother than release than The Last Faoii was. It took me two years to reach 75 reviews for The Last Faoii, and while I am so grateful to every person that has left a review, Amazon’s algorithms require them to be a little faster than that. Rule of thumb is the more reviews you have the first week of launch, the better your book will do overall. Luckily, I already have an incredibly loyal fanbase. So, for Faoii Betrayer, I’ve already sent out ARCs to the people who have been begging me for a sequel, and in return they’ve promised to leave a review on the day of Faoii Betrayer’s release. The launch party I’d originally scheduled and my summer events have been canceled due to Covid-19, but I have podcasts lined up and a few online events on the horizon.
No two people are going to have exactly the same publishing journey. And there’s no way to tell ahead of time exactly where your journey will take you. But, I think we’ve also felt the same way about our drafts and the adventures our characters go on and how we feel less in control and more on a ride when we write some chapters. Its exhilarating and terrifying and the only way you can find out how it ends is if you keep going.
So keep going. You can do this.
Anything else I feel like sharing:
One of the biggest things I learned through all of this is don’t compare yourself to other authors. Use them to inspire you. Follow their guidelines if you think they’ll help you. But don’t look over your various writer feeds comparing yourself to everyone else. There are millions of authors in the world. There will always be someone who writes more words every night or has more books out or who collects more royalties. There will always be someone who seems like they’re better than you in every way. But you’re only seeing the things they post—and that’s never the full story.
While I was writing Faoii Betrayer it was so easy to fall into the trap of “I’m not good enough.” I was still raw from my first publishing experience and was afraid to try again. But I was also intimidated by all the other writers around me. It seemed like every person on my feed was writing 2,000 words a night. And, between my three jobs and a desire to sleep on occasion, that lofty goal seemed impossible. I was defeated before I even began. Overwhelmed by the idea of even trying to keep up. So I ended up not writing anything at all.
Until I decided on 200 words a day. Two hundred. That’s barely anything. A paragraph. Five minutes worth of work. It’s such a small number it’s not even really worth aiming for, right?
Wrong. Because it was 200 more words than I was writing before. It was such a small number that I never felt overwhelmed by the prospect of it. I never felt like I couldn’t do it. So I hit that mark every night. And I quickly learned that if I was able to sit down and write 200 words then most of the time I was able to write a lot more than that too. Sometimes I couldn’t. Sometimes I got to 200 and that was it. But it was still more than I would have written otherwise. And that tiny goal made it so I could write an entire novel and break through any writer’s block I had with relative ease. I just chipped away at it slowly.
Now, Faoii Betrayer is coming out in Summer of 2020 and I wrote it in less than a year, 200 words at a time. Maybe other authors will tell me I did it wrong and that I could have done it more quickly if I’d set a different goal each day. Maybe they’re right. But I’m not comparing myself to them anymore, and that has made all the difference in the world.
So keep going. At whatever pace you want and into whatever universe you want to see. There will always be naysayers. There will always be people that try to discourage you or bring you down. (So far my only 1-star review just says “There should have been a warning the protagonist is gay.”) But I think the thing that sets the Faoii apart from the unascended is that one group never gave up no matter how difficult things got. Keep going.
“The Faoii of Ashwood” (a short story): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZNNNG2F
Faoii Betrayer coming soon! Subscribe to http://www.TahaniNelson.com for more information!