Someone’s Story: A Retrospective on an Award-Winning Indie Author JourneySomeone’s Story: A Retrospective on an Award-Winning Indie Author Journey https://www.readerviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Blog-Article-1024x576.png 1024 576 Reader Views Reader Views https://www.readerviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Blog-Article-1024x576.png
by B.A. Bellec, Award Winning Author of Someone’s Story
April 12, 2020, one year ago, I did something I never thought I would do. I put a novel up on Amazon. COVID-19 was just starting to take hold and I was looking for a stay home project. My career in Finance had hit a rough patch as I parted ways from a job I had been in for a few years and the job market was complicated because of the pandemic. The novel had been close to done for a little bit, but for whatever reason, I finally pulled the trigger and posted it.
Fast forward one year and I am accepting The Reader Views Kids Award for Best Young Adult Book of the Year, along with a gold medal in the 16+ category and a gold medal in the Canada West category. It was an interesting journey and I will share some of the hiccups and wins along the way.
Becoming A Storyteller
In my heart, I always wanted to be a story-teller. The early roots of this writing came when I had finished a few classes in film school and was going through those typical new adult struggles while I was trying to find independence. I was too introverted to make films but the part that did stick to me was the screenwriting and story creation side. This frustration around my life turned into a journal diving into my past. A way for me to take in everything that had happened the last few years and process it.
I spent over a year writing into this journal idea in private, it covered many years. Then something hit me, I wrote a journal to help myself, but could these same words help others if I refine them? I started to take the writing and grow it. I looked at the people around me for inspiration and started to put little pieces of everyone I knew into the idea. I moved the timeline around to condense the plot. The message from my journal was still there, but now the story was beginning to take shape. I picked up The Perks of Being a Wallflower as an inspiration piece and started to mirror some of my structural editing choices based on things that were done in that book.
A major theme in my novel is mental health. I think why this book is finding an audience, is because there is kinetic energy coming from the learning, growth, and discovery parts of this story. That is the coming of age aspect. That part is all me. At the same time, I have this other side to my story. No spoilers here, but this other part of my main character came from a couple of people close to me. The reason this book pulls you in is that it is multiple years of multiple people combined into one condensed point of view.
I think overall I made two interesting editing choices. The first was to include screenplay-style dialogue. This came from my time in film school. I never loved the way novels present talking scenes. The quotes and constant use of said always bothered me. Another thing I didn’t care for in novels was conversations with more than two people. They get a little muddy and confusing. My goal was to merge screenplay and novel writing to give the best of both worlds. I think what we are left with is dialogue that is jarring to the reader for a chapter or two, but once they get past the initial shock, they are left with a quick, snappy way of showing characters communicating. This idea helps the book flow faster. One of the things most people don’t know is that I had to change the formatting of the dialogue a few weeks before I published. In my manuscript, I had it exactly like a screenplay, but I ran into problems in Kindle Create with this formatting. To fix it, I had to move the tags so they showed on the same line. This was a tedious exercise that took me a few days.
The second decision I made was the main character’s name. Originally it was me and it was a first-person journal. As the project grew and I began to turn the journal into a novel, I just kept referring to the main character as Someone. I figured I would eventually just go back and change this. My editors and I had a few back and forth conversations about this. My amazing life partner chimed in and said she loved that the book is immersive and almost anyone can step into the shoes of the main character. The weird, first-person perspective was something none of them had seen done like this. Leave it be.
Those two editing decisions were critical. Something else that came a little late is there is a small sub-plot around a marathon runner. These chapters were some of the last writing on this project and became the glue that holds the story together.
That was life in my editing room over the last few months before I published.
Launching A Platform
Fast forward now to the early days of marketing my project in April. I had no online presence. Someone’s Story is one of the first things I have put into a public space. I didn’t have any connections in the writing community. For most of April, May, and June I learned how to be better at social media. Before April I was a ghost online.
I did have a neat idea that I had been saving to help my platform launch. As my book was being edited a few months earlier, I decided to try and make some music. Music was always a massive part of the book. As my editors were hard at work ripping my writing to shreds, I was hard at work creating my first couple of songs. I found this amazing musician online named Gus Reeves and we talked about my project. Gus had the perfect voice to communicate the emotion I wrote with. Folksy, soulful, and grizzled. It started as just one song but after a few weeks of working together, we began to grow the project. We ended up with four songs. The only song that was finalized when I published was Let Us Go. That is why it is quoted on the pages. The other songs existed in concept and had some lyrics written, but they are only referenced.
Move to June, and I am a little down on myself. I think most new authors have a disconnect about just how much marketing goes into launching a book or platform. I know I did. I thought more people would find the project quicker. I had tried the Kindle Deal strategies, and I had tried a few small paid partners, but nothing did much of anything to move the needle.
I made a few decisions because of what I deemed to be a lack of marketing progress, and they worked very well. I switched my novel over to Smashwords and put it on all platforms instead of just Amazon. I don’t have anything against Amazon, I was just looking for more exposure. Smashwords is a tool to quickly publish to all the big online stores. I also decided to make the book free. My goal was to try and get as many readers as possible over the next few months. I didn’t want anyone to pass on the book because it was behind a paywall. From there I hit two lucky breaks. I started using Instagram way more and made some quick connections in the #bookstagram community. I think my cover helped tons because the purple, pink, and yellow are beautiful. Reviews started to pour in, and I doubled my review count in a month. I also was lucky enough to connect with a much more established author named K.C. Finn. She gave my book a glowing review through the Readers’ Favorite platform, and we chatted after that review posted. She gave me some great pointers and advice. I thought it was the coolest thing ever that an award-winning author liked my book and wanted to help me out.
Still in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown, I was pouring myself into marketing Someone’s Story and I also was starting to make huge progress on my second novel, Pulse. I spent the rest of the summer hyper-focused on those two things. In July, I reached out to a family member and they started helping me with social media. At that time, I still was just scratching the surface as my review count was around 40. Once I started getting help on social media, I started looking at bigger marketing opportunities.
I found BookFunnel and Rafflecopter. I did more one-on-one communication with some bigger #bookstagram accounts. I also had success doing review trades with other authors. Every month the platform grew.
Around the same time I got some help on social media, I took my second novel back to square one. My editors and I cut it from 60k words down to 8K, and then slowly started piecing it back together with a few new ideas driving the revised structure.
For three months I just lived life on repeat. A piece of me wanted to prove this first book wasn’t a fluke. Every morning I would get up and add a few thousand words. By the end of September, I had my second novel up to 80K words, I had 80 reviews on Goodreads, and all my social media accounts had shown good growth. I was happy with all the progress and glad I made the free decision in June. If my book wasn’t free, I bet I only find 5-10 new reviews over that same period.
In October, I sent Pulse for another round of editing and while that was happening, I focused on YouTube growth as well as started looking at awards for Someone’s Story. From what I had seen online, most indie books never get one hundred reviews.
I wanted to see if I could get an award win to help in my marketing and my platform pitch. I looked for smaller contests and put my book in the mix for around six awards. It takes months to go through the process. I was awarded a Red Ribbon in The Wishing Shelf book awards, and a Notable Indie by Shelf Unbound. I still had a few awards outstanding but had lowered my expectations having finished below the podium on the first few.
My marketing had slowed down in late 2020 and early 2021. I had gone stagnant right around the 100 review mark. I was also busy working on a contract outside my writing endeavor so I was struggling to find time for marketing. Where I caught a little steam again was I published a new song for the second book. Months earlier I had been awarded a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to make a few songs for the new book. In early January I put out a song to set the stage for marketing the second book. The platform started to see growth again. In late February the grant-funded pixel-art music video for the Pulse-inspired song Limitless came out, and I have been picking up a few reviews per week again on the Someone’s Story project. This is neat because I wasn’t pitching Someone’s Story anymore, people were finding Pulse, and then it was leading them to my first book. Marketing was back on track and there is some truth to the saying “the best marketing for a book is another book.”
I was happy with the platform growth and had settled into a new routine. Then something unexpected happened again. I knew I was in the running with Reader Views and had seen the strong review they gave my book, but didn’t think I would win anything major. When I woke up to see the Young Adult Book of the Year win on March 22, I was over the moon. I was just hoping to place in a key category and do some author-to-author marketing with the big winners. Winning this award changes everything for the next few months. Instead of leaving Someone’s Story behind for Pulse, I will refocus some of my marketing time to bringing more eyes to the award-winning story that got me here.
Thank you Reader Views for bringing Someone’s Story and my platform in front of more people. Thanks to my family for the support. Thanks to everyone who connected with me over social media or read the book. Also, thanks to the team of people behind bringing these ideas to reality. This book is for everyone. That is why it is free. Come check out Someone’s Story if you want to feel what it is like to step into the shoes of the people around you.
About the Author
Author of the award-winning Young Adult Coming of Age novel Someone’s Story and co-producer on the music it inspired, B.A. Bellec was born in Richmond, BC, raised in Langley, BC, and eventually settled in Winnipeg, MB. His first adventure was a career in Finance, where he spent 15 years developing his business skills. His highest achievement was the Certified Payroll Manager designation. He currently still consults with businesses on their systems and processes. Over that period of time, he also attended film school where he started to nurture his early creative abilities. He is the proud recipient of a Canada Council for the Arts grant and can’t believe all the praise he has received. His second novel and EP is gigantic in comparison and he eagerly anticipates sharing that project so you can see his evolution as a writer and producer. He spends his free time talking to the family, catching up on Netflix, reading, jogging, or walking his dog.