Books and Blogs and Swag, Oh My!
Those were fateful words – “I think I’m going to submit my story to a publisher” – that I spoke to my wife approximately one year ago. Fast forward to the present, and my life is filled with creating promos, making swag, begging for reviewers and reviews, keeping up with the two dozen M/M Facebook groups I’ve joined (not to mention all the other social media connections), and most importantly, writing. Add into the mix regular ol’ life, an impending move by the year’s end and a job search, and there’s enough smoke coming out of my ears worthy of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
Don’t get me wrong—I never thought that being an author would be an easy job. I know just from the act of writing itself that it is one of the most exhausting, trying and rewarding occupations I’ve ever had. Typically I wouldn’t label being an author a job, because I consider writing to be my passion, a calling, in a way. But there is so much that goes on behind the scenes, that new authors like me are challenged to wear many hats once you accept those final edits. In other words, signing with a publisher does not mean that you no longer have anything to do.
Marketing myself and my book without irritating everyone by constantly posting is a delicate balance. I come from the “don’t toot your own horn” mindset that my proper Catholic mother instilled in me as a kid. That teeny voice inside (which coincidentally sounds just like my mom’s), lectures me on the dangers of bragging and the virtues of humility. It’s a hard voice to ignore. And trust me, I’ve been trying for years. (Sorry, Mom.)
The reality is that if I don’t share myself and my books with the world, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will. The other voice in my head (the self-confident one that coincidentally sounds like my wife’s), says that I should be proud of my accomplishments and shout them from the mountain tops. That’s the one I prefer to listen to, but it’s easier said than done.
I think I will struggle with this for the rest of my life. But I am learning how to be a proud author with the help of some really incredible resources. First, the M/M author and reader community is huge and incredibly supportive. Those several dozen Facebook groups I mentioned earlier? Well, the members have provided me with endless tips, encouragement and much needed laughter. Second, my publishing house, though small compared to others in the genre, has been amazing in pointing me in the right direction and being my biggest cheerleader. I would recommend to any newbie wanting to publish for the first time, to use the expertise of a publisher before branching out on your own. Third, my friends both physically and virtually close, have given me the added pat on the back I needed to keep sharing my writing.
One of my favorite quotes is: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” by Ernest Hemingway. It’s why those callous reviews and comments rip me to shreds when I read them. Writing, like all forms of art, is an extension of the artist. Essentially a part of us is on display to be judged in a contest with no clear rules. And especially now in this online age, it’s so easy to just spit out your thoughts anonymously. I see it as both a blessing and a curse.
I want feedback. I want to improve my skills and hone my craft. I want to move people by creating realistic, flawed, and accessible characters. And yes, sometimes it means I get a callous review that simply tells me my book sucked. It may crush me, but it’s only temporary. Because at the end of the day, I write for me…from my heart. And I’d rather do that any day than compromise who I am to please the masses.
I am going to GRL (GayRomLit) for the first time ever, and I’m attending as a Supporting Author. Truth be told, I am a huge fan of so many of the authors who will be there that I’m going to have to tone down the fangirl in me. The official countdown has begun. Oh, who am I kidding? It began a long time ago.
I will have books and swag there, I will be thrilled to pieces whenever someone wants me to sign something I’ve written, and I will be soaking up every learning opportunity this conference has to offer. Am I nervous? Yep. Am I excited? Yep. Am I looking forward to the experience of a lifetime? Ya, you betcha! (That’s Minnesotan-speak for absolutely.) But most of all, I am looking forward to meeting everyone; so many people who have a love and passion for those who support and give voice to LGBT stories, just like I do.
My world has been turned upside down this last year since I signed my contract, and despite how difficult it can be at times, I wouldn’t change a darn thing. No matter how overwhelmed I get, I know that deep down it’s writing that makes my soul most happy. So, I’m becoming a bit more adept at listening to the voices in my head selectively, and I’m enjoying every moment of this journey without one ounce of regret.
If you are at GRL, please stop and say hi! I am so grateful to the creators of this event and for the chance to attend.
And many thanks to Rainbow Gold Reviews for being understanding of a forgetful newbie author like me.
J.R., or Jen as friends call her, has always been an avid reader, oftentimes reading a book a day. When she was a kid, she found a huge box of old paperbacks for sale at a neighbor’s garage sale. She offered the woman a quarter for the entire haul, and then went home and locked herself in her bedroom so her younger brother couldn’t interrupt her while she read. This fueled her love for romantic fiction and inspired her to try her own hand at writing. In 2013 Jen started writing fan-fiction, and soon after began creating her own original stories. Currently, her favorite genre to read and write is contemporary gay romance.
J.R. Barten was born and raised in Iowa and now resides in the Twin Cities of Minnesota with her partner of sixteen years and two rescue dogs. In addition to her novella, Back in the Saddle, Jen has two more books that are scheduled for release later this year.
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I would like to give a big Thank You to J.R. Barten for taking the time to stop by RGR today and telling us a little bit about Books and Blogs and Swag.