Monday, March 20, 2017

Kendra E. Ardnek's Publication Story + Q&A

Six years ago, my dad had a heart attack. And, by six years, I mean, almost exactly six years, because it was early March. I was sixteen. He'd been unemployed since I was twelve (outside of reffing), and, in that time, we had lost my grandmother, we had almost lost my mother due to a miscarriage, she had suffered at least one other miscarriage, and my baby sister had been born. Oh, and there was the car accident when my baby sister was six weeks old, plus a whole slew of other craziness.

During this time, I had turned to writing as a form of escape, as something that I could control in my chaotic life. As of six years ago, I had two completed projects - The Dragon's Return, which I knew needed serious rewriting before I could even think of publishing (and which is now Lady Dragon, Tela Du), and Sew, It's a Quest, which I had written with the Young Writer's Program NaNoWriMo the November before on a whim. I also had three different previous drafts of TDR, all in script version, and a few scripts for some other plays that I had written.

You see, growing up, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I probably wouldn't have said "author." Oh, no, I wanted to be an actress. But if I had to write my own scripts to get there, well, I was fine with that. I did love making up stories, and, to a less degree, writing them down. Had since I understood the concept. And being an author was always in my plans in a more low-key goal - I had my Tigerlilly stories that I was looking forward to publishing one day. I had only switched to prose when I realized that (1) the likelihood of me finding a cast to enact my Rizkaland plays was negligible and (2) the story was getting pretty stinkin' complicated, and it would be better off as a book.

My dad survived the heart attack. Still, with everything else going on, times were rough. I had just turned sixteen, and, even though my parents didn't expect it of me, as the oldest child, I felt pressured to help provide income for the family.

I had written Sew with NaNoWriMo, and, since I had reached my wordgoal, this meant that I got a free proof copy from CreateSpace. I'd been looking into some traditional publishers, not really finding any that I liked, and I hadn't wanted to do the old self-publishing method where you paid a company a couple thousand dollars to get your book printed. I couldn't afford that. But here was a company that printed on demand. That let you publish for practically FREE.

I put Sew together, used the Cover Creator to make a very generic cover, and, after some fairly vigorous edits given me by my mother, grandmother, and a cousin, ordered my proof copy at the LAST possible moment. Oh, it was so shiny and awesome. My own words, bound up in a REAL book. My every dream come true.

I didn't hit the "publish" button immediately. I knew the book still needed some edits, and I did do them. Some of them. The glaring ones. The ones that I noticed. I also decided that I wanted to use a penname. (Yup, my original proof copy has my REAL last name on it). I also set up the book on KDP. I don't remember how I found KDP. I think it was on CreateSpace's website.

August 4th, I hit my breaking point under the pressure. After a brief conversation with my mother on how I NEEDED a way to help provide income, I went into KDP and CreateSpace and pushed publish.

Oh, that was a moment of exhilaration.

I knew that the book wasn't perfect, but it was published. People could now buy it. People (aka family friends) WERE buying it.

I made a big mistake, though. At the time, I didn't have a bank account, so while I NOW have both CreateSpace and KDP on direct deposit, I had them send my first payments via check. But I decided to be cute and wrote "GiraffeCrafts" as my company name. It was my yarn business ... but ... um ... not recognized by banks. And that's the name that Amazon put down on the "Pay to" line. So I had to create the business legally so that I could cash my checks and open a bank account. (It cost me fifteen bucks to open the business, and I think I had, maybe, forty dollars between the two checks.)

I kinda forgot about the company. Until two years later when I received a letter from the state telling me that I owed $200 in taxes because I didn't tell them my inventory was nil. My dad paid that for me, and then, being an idiot, I didn't fix the issue of the state thinking that I had a $1000 inventory, and had to pay the $200 again the next year. This time, I paid. I did fix the issue, though, I think, because I haven't received any more letters from the state demanding $200. *squints at mailbox*

Moral of the story: Don't be cute and tell Amazon to send your checks to a fictional company.

That wasn't the only mistake I made my first year, but that was definitely the biggest one, and the one that has had the longest-lasting negative impact on my life.

Once all of my family friends had bought the book, I kinda stalled out on marketing. I had one blog interview, and one interview on an e-magazine that I contributed to, but that was it.

Until another cousin released a book. Cousin Tenya. Through her, I found Goodreads, and she helped me get a better cover for my book. I also joined her writing for O.Scarlett reviews (which I have now become practically the only contributor anymore).

And then KDP introduced KDP Select. I signed Sew up for that faster than you could yell "hot potato," and then I set it to be free on Christmas day. The downloads I saw from that weren't brillaint, but I liked it - so I set it for free multiple times following that.

Thanks to those free days, I found two people - Jaye L. Knight (then Molly Evangeline), and a blogger who's no longer blogging. Through Jaye, I found Sarah Holman's Homeschooled Authors. Through the blogger, I found "Actually Finishing Something in July" and, through that, a whole slew of authors and aspiring authors, one of them, Anne-Girl, being the one from whom I stole the idea of an e-Conference.

I do not recommend many of my publication choices to any aspiring author. It's been a long, awkward, uphill battle, and I really think that, if I had focused on building a readership BEFORE I published, the climb wouldn't have been half so difficult. Still, it's the journey that I took, and it has led me where I am today, and I wouldn't have it any other way. (Except for the fact that I had to pay $400. THAT I would like to change.)

Q&A Time!

I would like to open the floor now for questions. Anything concerning my writing, my writing process, or my writing journey. Unlike the other authors, who will only be available for the day of thier posting, I will be here all week to answer, but be patient, because it may take me a while to get to it. I'm scrambling about getting all these lovely posts up for you, after all.


  1. Have you made an income with your writing?

    1. I have made money writing (Can't say the total off the top of my head, but I think that I've made back the $400 that I had to pay in taxes), but it's not enough to live of of yet. Oi.

  2. You wanted to publish in order to help provide income for your family. Has the income from self-publishing exceeded your expenditure and, if so, how far into the process were you before that happened?

    1. If I count out money that I spent on the business fiasco, then yes, I have, because I keep my expenditures low on everything else, mainly by doing most of the work myself.

      I THINK that I've reached the point where I can say that I've made back my $400, but, if so, it's only been very recently. So ... yeah.

  3. What a writing journey you've had already! I'm hoping and praying you'll have a long and fruitful life of writing joy ahead of you!

  4. From my own experience I know how much writing can help as a personal escape. That's what really got me started too about fourteen years ago now. I am curious as to what books or authors inspire your writing, or if not really inspired, what are some of your favorite books?

    1. Given that LADY DRAGON, TELA DU began as a shameless rip-off of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, I think that it's safe to say that Narnia is a huge influence on me.

      Other books, though:
      Lord of the Rings - mostly worldbuilding. I also kidnapped some hobbits for the Elving stories.
      Oz - reminding me to have fun with my fantasy.
      Little House Books - it was while reading these that I realized that books were written by PEOPLE, and I decided that I wanted to write my own.
      Ilyon Chronicles - Jaye L. Knight is my "step ahead." The author who I look to as my achievable goal. Also, I'm a HUGE fan of Ilyon. I drew fanart for it once, if you'll click on the fanart tab.

    2. I think it's impossible to write fantasy and not rip off Tolkien at least a little ;) I also loved the Little House books growing up, and while I don't think I really took anything from those for writing, they are good character studies in themselves.

    3. No, I physically kidnapped those hobbits.

  5. If it's not too late, I've got a question! :)
    I know you recently re-did "Sew, It's a Quest," because it was written when you were very young and since then you've improved.
    Here's my basic problem: I have all these great story ideas in my head, and they just look so awesome up there! But....when I try to actually get them OUT of my head, they look like a bunch of ickty-ack. So I've put off actually starting on any of these stories, since I want them to actually be really good, and not waste an awesome story on not-so-great skills.
    Soo....that leads into my actual question! :D
    Would you advise just charging straight ahead, getting it out, working it over, then publishing? Or would you write it out, then save it and fix it up years later when you're better at writing? Or just wait and not really go for a whole book until you really have those skills down?
    Sorry for my suuuper long and drawn out question! :D

    1. I'm open to questions all week, you're not too late.

      Get the story down now while it's hot, even if it's a mess. Then write the next story. Then write the next. Build your skills.

      Then go back and rewrite that first story. This time, it will be better.

      I do not recommend publishing like I did, because its mess has put a tarnish on my reputation as a writer that I'm going to have to work VERY hard to clean. I needed to spend at least another year honing my skill ... but I was impatient. I wanted to be published THEN.

      Your writing is only going to improve by WRITING. And that doesn't just mean writing false starts. You're going to have to write whole books. Endings are different than beginnings, and middles take tenacity to get through. You need to practice writing endings, and you need to develop that tenacity.

      My newest release - Lady Dragon, Tela Du - was the first book I ever wrote, though it was a script back then. I have no fewer than five completed drafts of that book, because I never settled for mediocre on it. I wrote it the best that I could, then I wrote it better, and then I put it away until I knew I could write it the way it needed to be written.

      Just accept that your books are never going to look as good on paper as they do in your head, and get them on paper. Even though LDTD is so much better now that it was then, it's still not as amazing and wonderful as the version that I have in my head. And I'm okay with that. But I'm only okay with that because I honed my craft, and wrote the story multiple times until I could make it as close as I could get.

      I also recommend that you find some writing partners, people who will read your book and give you honest feedback - tell you how you can improve, as well as what you're doing right. I recommend the Go Teen Writer's website - it's in my bloglist on my sidebar. They have great writing advice, and they foster an incredibly encouraging community.

  6. I can relate on so many levels--using writing as an escape, hard family situations, wanting to help out financially but not quite making it--not in the same way, but similar. *Hugs*

    I really enjoyed your posts about your various characters, including Character Encounters (which, as I've said about a million times, was what helped get me interested in my own writing again). It helped me visualize and know a bit about them prior to reading their stories, yet still left plenty of surprises!
    I've been thinking of doing something similar with my own Characters. Any thoughts/advice there?

    Also, do you plan on using your real name in future books, or will you stick with your pen-name?

    1. Thoughts/Advise - Have fun.

      If I ever get into non-fiction, I'll probably use my real name. As it is now? Probably not. Although I will admit that I almost switched to it at WPFP's publication.

  7. Out of all the characters you've written, who has been your favorite, and why?

    ~ Savannah

    1. For legal reasons, I have to say Maryanne, who will be introduced in book 4 of the Bookania. And, by legal reasons, I mean that she threatens to dump water on my computer if I don't say that it's her.

      I do love her, though.

  8. So I'm a bit of an eejit and didn't realize that the other Q&A posts were one day only. Oh well.

    I think I've heard about your writing journey before, but I enjoyed reading about it again here.

    My questions: What's the #1 piece of advice you would give to authors looking to self-publish? Also, how do you think all stress and difficult life situations affected your writing, besides writing being an escape for you?

    1. My #1 piece of advice - begin growing your audience now. Right now, you have the freedom of not having a product to sell, and, trust me, that's a freedom. Every interaction I have with a new person there's a looming "I have a book that I'd really like you to buy." You don't have that looming over you. You merely have your words. So start building your platform. Let them fall in love with your words.

      And how has my life affected my writing - I think, mostly, in the recurring theme of "God is in control" that I have throughout my writing. Because that's something that I've had to cling to so many times, something that I continually have to remind myself.

  9. Thanks for sharing! I have indeed noticed that theme, though not as strongly as others . . .


Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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