Publishing World Wisdom from Jeff and Victoria Nania
The author series continues, sharing the knowledge (often hard-won) from published authors as they tell us what they would tell their pre-published selves, and NEW FOR 2023, what they always do to help make book launches successful. This month's featured authors are the dynamic duo, Jeff and Victoria Nania. Jeff is the author of the Northern Lakes Mystery series and Victoria (also an author) supports the publishing side of their venture. We get double the awesome advice below!
Jeff & Victoria’s Story
Jeff & Victoria believe the best writing comes from life experiences—those in which they get their “feet wet”—thus, Feet Wet Writing was formed. Jeff draws upon careers in law enforcement and conservation to weave together thrilling mysteries set in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Victoria, his partner-in-crime, supports independent authors and writes non-fiction.
In 2016 we began Feet Wet Writing with the idea that we would both write. Victoria had published a book eight years earlier and was ready to do another. Jeff had just finished his first manuscript, and we were figuring out his publishing road.
In 2019 when the first book in Jeff’s Northern Lakes Mystery series was published we were working with his publisher’s Ingram-approved distributor. After six months in this system, the distributor was not really paying attention, and Jeff’s books kept going out of stock. We realized as an indie author, after printing costs, shipping to us, shipping to the distributor, shipping to stores, we needed to find a different, more efficient, more sustainable way.
So, with a degree in graphic design and a background in printing in Victoria's back pocket, the micropublishing, sales, distribution, and marketing aspects of Feet Wet Writing were developed.
From Jeff: What do I wish I could tell my pre-published self?
There are some things that come to mind.
You need to have faith in the book you’re going to publish. If you don’t like it, the chances are readers won’t either. It’s normal to be a little nervous before a book is published, but you should be confident.
Don’t be pressured to get something out the door. Better to take your time and do it right, than to rush through things. Figure out when you would like to be finished and hang that target in front of you.
Finding an editor is challenging. Just because someone hangs out a shingle that says, “book editor,” it doesn’t mean that they are the right person for you. The first editor I hired didn’t like my style of writing, which was compounded by the fact that at that point I didn’t even know I had a style. She continued to make suggestions, and I continued to try and change my book. That was a mistake. Write what you want to write, find someone who has a basic interest in the kind of story you want to tell. I write mysteries; my first editor told me halfway through the process she didn’t read or like mysteries.
Be very conscious of the validity of what people tell you. Sometimes other writers have lots of advice for new authors. The information shared may have great value or no value. In my experience, I found that the more successful writers are the ones most willing to share. On the other hand, I have found some writers seem to hold a treasure trove of writing secrets they guard jealously. Advice from this group tends to be a little less on the mark.
A very successful author told me early on, “the front cover and a paragraph on the back cover will sell books.” Your cover should be part of the story. Hopefully name recognition comes a few books down the road.
Everyone has the perfect suggestion for your book. Don’t get distracted by chasing down leads that are dead ends. Write what you know, if your story starts getting too complicated you are probably wandering into the world of the yet unknown.
When I wrote my first book, and I showed it to some folks, they offered many, many suggestions. It seemed as though I had entered into a new mysterious world of pub dates, agents, publishers, editors, genre, and so on. I tried to take it all in and understand the relevance of what I was hearing.
Soon, I reached the bottom line. The fact is writing is like almost everything else, to be done well it takes a lot of work and dedication. Putting together something you and your readers are happy with is a simple concept and a most complicated goal.
From Victoria: What we do to make book launches successful.
We have run four book launches, and all have been incredibly different. When we launched our first book, Figure Eight, we had a great party, sold a bunch of copies to our friends and family, and then had a garage full of books. We thought the party was the launch. We were wrong.
As this point, I picked up the book “Your First 1,000 Copies” by Tim Grahl. One thousand copies are beyond the scope of our 250 closest friends and family. It is beyond the networks of who they share it with. It represents perfect strangers reading our book. It outlined a goal for me: 1,000 copies. We began our launch anew. It took nine months to sell our first 1,000 copies.
When our second book, Spider Lake, was set to come out, we set our party date, took preorders from customers and booksellers, and had interviews, blogs, and events scheduled for six months. We were feeling wise and seasoned this time around! Two months into it, the pandemic shut everything down and wiped our calendar clean. Still, those first few weeks before the complete shutdown gave us a kick start. We met our 1,000-copy goal in three months.
Fast forward 18 months when we had adjusted to a “new normal” and Bough Cutter was set to release. Rather than hosting a party where no one was sure of the rules of what was safe, we planned a few virtual events but focused most of our energy scheduling promotions for the previous titles, securing BookBub deals, and launching paid ads on social media platforms. Our Bough Cutter launch exceeded all our expectations, selling 1,000 copies in less than two weeks.
Today we are five years into our publishing journey. We have read all the blogs on timelines for book launches. Larger publishing houses plan out 36 months in advance, some smaller publishers plan a year ahead. At minimum, six months are needed to send pre-publication copies out for review to media, booksellers, and advance readers. When the much anticipated fourth book in the Northern Lakes Mystery Series, Musky Run, was ready to go, we had told readers they’d have it “before the snow melts.” The first day of spring only was four weeks away.
Rather than heeding the advice of the wise authors and publishers who came before and take the time needed to secure other author blurbs, reviews, and events, we decided to be true to our readers and booksellers and deliver on our promise. While we scheduled a few events and promotions, given the logistics of production and our timeline, we didn’t have time to do a lot. We meet our sole metric of launch success in five days.
At first when we were asked the question, “What is one thing you always do to help make your new book launches successful?” it felt almost impossible to answer because our four book launches have been so different. While there are many things that are required for a “successful launch”—like a strong narrative and high-quality product, after reflecting on this rollercoaster journey, we share this: play the long game and be authentic.
Play the long game. While big publishing houses put a ton of resources behind a launch and judge its success in the first three months, independent publishers and authors have the opportunity for an extended timeline. We didn’t launch our children into the world within three months and expect them to be successful, why should our books be any different?
Be authentic, your readers deserve it. One size does not fit all. While there are many posts out there about launch activities and timeline, you need to do what works for you. If you are doing things that feel forced, you aren’t going to be engaging with your readers authentically. They deserve authenticity.
Learn more at FeetWetWriting.com and check out the Northern Lakes Mystery series below:
As former police officer John Cabrelli struggles in the wake of a career-ending event, he retreats to his late uncle’s lakeside cabin in Wisconsin… but it’s far from the peaceful refuge he expects. Danger awaits — along with the truth behind his uncle’s death.
Former police officer John Cabrelli is recuperating at Spider Lake when a string of mysterious events in a nearby town draws him into a case involving a missing federal agent and a secluded cabin… An unputdownable crime thriller!
Just as Namekagon County sheriff John Cabrelli adjusts to his new job, a body is discovered in the woods — and he must race against time to unravel the case when the lives of even more victims are claimed within the wilderness.
Olympic medalist Anna MacDonald comes home to Namekagon County to emcee the Great Wilderness Race as predators stalk the Northwoods. Sheriff John Cabrelli and the new Musky Falls chief of police work swiftly to keep the community calm as they try to piece together the clues before it is too late.