Tales in Publishing:
I've spoken about my newest series in passing, and announced how it was my first completed novel (the story of how it got published a decade later here). However, I have gone silent about details since. A little backstory here. Quiver, book 1 of The Immortal Transcripts, was my first finished novel after lots of false starts. I made many revisions, had too many betas whose advice I listened too--all of their advice--destroying the book; then I had a student editor who helped me revamp it developmentally and grammatically. I still wasn't satisfied so I shelved it, pulling it out thinking of how I should revise it. As the article mentioned above outlines in more detail, it was queried, almost picked up, but I chose to stick to my vision rather than change everything just to get published. Back to the shelf it went.
Fast forward, I published a novella, and two novels. Even though I'm currently working on the Celestial Spheres series with my publishers, I wanted to see how they'd feel about The Immortal Transcripts as well. At this point, amazingly, I did not have to query--for the first time ever. I got to directly submit to the publisher. It was a heady feeling. It was accepted, and we've gone through developmental edits, making a few changes that don't alter my vision, a round of edits, and awaiting the last stage of copy edits, then proofing. We've discuss the cover, and it is being drawn up as we speak. Soon will be entering the marketing part where blurbs will be drafted and ads will be discussed. It's almost wrapped up, and I'm so excited for the world to see it.
In the meantime, in future posts, I'll release the pitch and query for the novel which I had used in the past and saw results from both. Even though the representation and I did not line up at the time, I had great results in sparking interest through my pitch and query. Stay tuned as I reveal details about the series, and I hope it alleviates the wait for those of you who are "dying" for the next Celestial Spheres book (July 2020). Quiver will hit shelves February 2020. Can't wait? Then check out my website for news about it here.
Tips for Writers:
Again, I love getting topics via Twitter's #writingcommunity. There's constantly talk within this community about the way in which writers generate their ideas. Basically, there are plotters and pantsers, and everything in between those two camps.
Plotter: a full-on plotter author will painstakingly plan everything out, chapter for chapter. I've seen spreadsheets, charts, outlines, post-it notes, etc. There are programs used, patterns followed like the snowflake method, books on plotting, and more. There's a stringent process that is created before they ever start writing the novel. Everything adheres to this pattern and is planned out with careful attention to characters arcs, plot lines, timelines, etc.
Those who know me might think that this is the type of author I am, since it is the type of person I am. I hate canceled plans, love routines--cannot function without them--and honestly, I'm anxious a lot. However, when it comes to creativity and writing stories, I've always been more of a loose cannon. Any rigidity is life-threatening to my creative juices. I think this stems from how my stories began--daydreams from an atypical kid.
Getting an education in Theater and English and becoming a college Lecturer taught me all the dynamics of what goes into character and plot. I know the structures and arcs necessary, but every time I tried to follow something plotted it was ignored for the greater attribute I had: imagination. I started calling it "the muse" because there was no other way to describe HOW I wrote. I pretty much see a movie in my head that I haven't ever planned out and record it in words. From my discoveries, this seems to be the same mentality as a lot of pantsers.
Pantsers: they fly by the seat of their pants. They're authors who just write and slap that imagination down on paper without worries or hindrances. They simply write and see what happens. Sometimes there may be a premise or not, or an idea of how it should begin and end. Sometimes they write their dreams down.
I'm a pantser and proud of it, but I'd never speak discouragingly of a plotter. From my study of writing in school and out of it, the quality of the final outcome isn't affected by how it began. Plotters seem to take much longer to write a draft, but draft 1 is usually much more polished than pantsers' draft 1. What it all comes down to is the author's ability to revise (plot, character, etc.) and editing (grammar, sentences, etc.). I've noticed the best writing I come across has had an ample amount of developmental revision as well as editing.
I have not talked about the in between process, which I would say the majority of authors fall into. They plot but the imagination sometimes leads the way. This, to me, seems like the perfect combo, but I could never emulate it. I've been flying by the seat of my pants--in only this aspect of my life--and I will continue to do so. But authors should do what they're most comfortable with and what works for them. One method is not better than the other; the debate simply shows us how creative minds vary.
So what type of first-drafter are you?
YA Book Review:
The Inevitable Fate
of E & J
The Inevitable Fate of E & J is an interesting story about past lives echoing into the future, showing great potential.
Elizabeth and Jimmy, former childhood friends who had a fallout, suddenly and inexplicably are drawn to each other after she turns sixteen, despite her having a boyfriend. Aside from this intense attraction, they have strange dreams, phantom pains, and hallucinations of what seems like someone else's past. Their personalities begin to change as well where Elizabeth casts aside the fake popular life and Jimmy works to prove himself worthy of her. Their love seems to blossom until a psychic tells them they must stay away from each other or something terrible will happen. They must decide whether or not to play it safe and break up or to risk everything for love.
There were some great things about this book and some things that I was not a fan of. Let's start with the cons, as there are only a couple. To me, the dialogue at times felt contrived, like an episode of Full House--you know, at the end, when everyone talks about their feelings/problems and sort through them calmly and therapeutically. Although this information is great for teens to read and emulate, people rarely sort through their feelings/problems easily and not everyone can spout out self-help advice to others who will calmly listen. I admit, since he had been through years of therapy, that Jimmy could have this allowance in his thoughts, but these heart-to-heart aloud conversations were a bit frequent to be believable. Second, there was repetition of characters' thoughts in the narrative. For example, both Jimmy and Elizabeth think about their fallout several times, rendering more detail each time about what happened, instead of just having one of them reveal the details earlier on. This happened with a couple other things in the novel as well. However, neither of these issues detracted too much from the overall enjoyment of the story.
The pros of this novel outweigh the cons. The concept of the entire story was neat and unique. One could say I've done a spoiler by explaining the past lives concept but this is clear in the first couple chapters. I love dramatic irony, so seeing the characters grapple to figure it out, when readers already know, keeps us turning pages. It makes sense it would take them a while to figure it out since the supernatural would never be anyone's first assumption, making this pretty realistic. I liked the character of Jimmy. He had a great backstory to explain his maturity and good nature. He was sweet, adorable, easy for Elizabeth to fall in love with. I disliked Elizabeth due to her treatment of Jimmy, and even though she acts like she's not comfortable with the superficial crowd she's in, her actions are very superficial. However, there is a great character arc where she changes for the better due to these past lives and Jimmy's positive influence over her. I love a good character arc and this one was done superbly. The dual POV was done well and the characters were believable. I'm a sucker for romance that has he said/she said views and this was done in an engaging way. Last, although I was not a fan of the self-help dialogue, the psychological aspects and understanding of therapy is well studied or researched--the author definitely knows what she's talking about. And I can see, despite my qualms for realism, that this would be beneficial for teens to read and sort out their feelings in positive ways.
Overall, I was delighted by the novel, and on learning this was a debut self-published novel, I was impressed with the execution (and I'm highly critical). I would recommend people give this novel a chance, particularly due to the entertainment value mixed with a fantastic price. Pick it up here.
Tales in Publishing:
Book Launch Parties
When I published my novella, it felt fantastic. We had an online book launch party for the entire anthology which was a fantastic learning experience. I was a bit sad though, as I couldn't have an in-person one with all my friends, you know the kind of posh event you see on TV and in movies.
Then I published a full-length novel, Apidae. It came out at a bad time financially and time-wise for me: five weeks before Christmas. Yes, this was good for sales, but I had no budget. Christmas presents must be bought. The end-of-the-semester crunch of paper grading was slaughtering me. I gave up on the idea of an in-person book launch--after I painstakingly made grand plans in my head I could never afford. The online launch was pretty successful though.
So when I published my second book, Fyr, in the summer, there were really no excuses since I wasn't teaching and no presents needed buying. And I figured, I deserved it, but I still needed to budget well. You must spend a good amount upfront with the expectation to only make some of it back.
It all started to take shape when I was talking about it at happy hour at a local bar/restaurant. The bartender, who is also manager and part owner, offered to let me have a party there for free. Since I had another book out already, I decided to have the party be a launch and signing combination and scheduled it 3 weeks after the second book was out. I did this so those who ordered it during the online book launch would have it delivered in time to be signed.
- Books. By far, the most expensive thing was buying the paperback books to sell. You do get a discount by ordering through publisher, but you still need to pay for printing and publisher's share of the the royalties. I played it safe, thirty books of each. Because most of my close friends who would come would've already bought it, I figured if I sold half that, it would be great. Then I could try to get the indie bookstores in the area to buy the rest or sell a few on Ebay autographed. Thirty would be easy to move, but fifty or more intimidated me.
- Door prizes. Everybody likes winning. For incentive to buy a book or to bring one to be signed, I decided to have a raffle. Grand prize was an Amazon giftcard, and I set up smaller gifts such as color changing mugs with the book cover on it thanks to the affordable Printifyus through Etsy, and a thematic gift of stone necklaces created by a little boy entrepreneur.
- Bookmarks. They are a must. I had 100 made by a very affordable company, GotPrint.com, that allowed me to design it through their online template. I urged everyone to take one, even strangers who happened to come take a peek at what was going on. They might just throw it away, but they could check it out, buy a book, or give it to someone who might be interested. The book marks were fairly cheap, so this was definitely worth it.
- Food. The idea of buying food and drink for my guests was going to be pricey, especially if a lot of people showed or if restaurant goers decided to join in to get free stuff. The alcohol consumption could be a liability issue as well. Research told me that book signings in bookstores would have no food or something simple like chocolates or cookies. I decided to serve thematic cookies that I made and guests could buy from the restaurant what they wished which would make the establishment money.
- Decor. Choosing a chill place and not renting it saved me loads. Their decor has a humble fishing pier vibe, so I simply decorated a table. I printed things out myself on special photo paper, used my crafting skills, and hit up the dollar store for table decorations.
- Invitations. I simply used Facebook to create an event through my author page, so it was free. It would take a lot of prep time to get everyone's address and to send off invitations. Not everyone sees these invites so a week before the party, I sent out personal messages. I only sent the message once weeks after the original invite; I didn't want to be too pushy or seemingly desperate.
In the end, only my friends came and a few strangers looked but didn't buy, which I heard can be common for a newly published author. My friends had held off on buying the books, so now bought them. I sold about twenty books altogether, and then eight more to people online who missed it but wanted an autographed copy (for this, I put the items in an Amazon cart to estimate tax and shipping). I have books left, but intend on keeping some on hand for another book launch in February for my next book. This time, I'll expect few people. Overall, it was a great learning experience, while I had fun with friends. I intend to do it again with lower expectations. Who knows, maybe this time I'll be surprised by more people.
Note: my area has zero book signing events, except one local bookstore that brings in authors sporadically. Otherwise, the closest place is two hours away and that is only for big-time best-selling, traditionally published authors who tour the nation. I'm hoping I'm onto a need in the area and get something going annually with other local authors.
"Dash you to Hyphen!"
From a Twitter post a while back, a lot of authors were confused about dashes and hyphens and when to use them. I found that interesting since I can't remember when it was taught to me or if I organically figured it out. I'm a avid reader with a couple English degrees under my belt, so hard to figure out the when and where it entered my brain. I found this to be a finer point of grammar that most teachers probably wouldn't get to. So let's get to it, easy and quick.
Em Dash: The em dash looks like this—which happens to be the length of the letter M, hence its name. It can be used in place of some commas or parentheses. I suggest only using them where a comma won't work: too many elements, things are confusing, or it is an aside that could go in parentheses.
She was sure—almost positive—that he liked her back, but he was shy, and she wasn’t sure if he was over his ex.
Okay, not the best sentence off the top of my head, but it illustrates the use of the Em dash as a parenthetical. If we replaced them with commas, this would be a confusing, comma-happy sentence that the writer might need to revise to avoid them or simply slap in some em dashes to keep the tone. Parentheses could be used, yes, but that kind of downplays the idea enclosed and a lot of publishers don't favor them.
En Dash: The en dash is often confused with the em. I only really use it in dates and page numbers. It is shorter than em dash and longer than the hyphen, precisely the length of the letter N. It actually has a pretty forward definition: through.
Please read pages 198–210 in your textbook.
I would assume you'd rarely use this one in writing fiction, so put your efforts into differentiating the other two.
You should see her I'm-going-to-murder-you glare firsthand.
Or more common ones:
The twelve-year-old kid was moody.
Note, it is the smallest and there is no extra spacing around them (also, you might see first-hand in places which is the British usage). The hardest part is figuring out whether or not it is a combined compound or if it is a hyphenated one. And there are a ton of hyphen rules, some strictly enforced and some pretty lax. Honestly, looking it up is the easiest thing to do if your not sure. And I might revisit it as it's own post.
Hope this helps a bit in differentiating dash punctuation!
Being an author who was lucky enough to get published in Evernight Teen's anthology Kissed, I wanted to also read the anthology that came before ours: Summer Crush. Just like our anthology, the previous one had a stipulation centered around the setting needed to be during summer break.
Here's the breakdown of the six stories by six great authors:
Sutton Summer (by Sasha Hibbs): A grieving McKenzie gets a dose of regret after dissing Dylan who is now suddenly shed his ugly duck syndrome. Dylan exacts revenge on the girl who shattered his heart with a cross between leading her on and torturing her. What was great about this story were the character arcs. You love and hate them at times making them so relatably human. I felt at times the characters were too cruel and catty, but by the end I did end up liking them and felt they were almost fully redeemed.
Exquisite Torture (by S.D. Wasley): Ryan spends the summer at his grandmother's in the middle of no where, without any internet, fixing up her house. Soon the boredom is broken by a girl who isn't quite what she seems and he finds himself unraveling a mystery while falling in love with a girl who might not quite be alive. What was great about this one was a blend of genres. It felt paranormal, horror--in a ghost story way--but was predominantly a romance. These blends did work, not to mention a twist ending wowed me.
Forbidden (by Melissa Frost): Olivia, your typical well-behaved teen, falls for the new bad boy, Gavin. As their relationship blossoms, she learns that "bad" is a relative term and she starts breaking rules due to her rigid mother's judgmental rejection of Gavin. This one seemed like the same old plot seen often, but it was still worth reading. This one was cute, and the scenes where you see them falling in love were addictive.
Taking the Plunge (by Diana Stager): Jessica is a teen mom raising her son all on her own while trying to finish high school. When she starts falling for Erik, a swim instructor of mom-baby swim class, and he pursues her, embracing the idea of her child rather than shying away, she is in too deep. This was a refreshingly different read showing the struggles young single mothers go through on many levels, not to mention a sweet love story of acceptance.
Boarderline Love (by Deanna Dee): Dayla is saved by Mason after almost drowning and is instantly drawn in by his hot factor, but hesitant due to his over protective attitude and shifts in moods. There's a reason Mason acts so odd: a past that he hasn't come to terms with. Enter an overprotective brother and it seems as if their romance is doomed from the start unless Dayla can get through to Mason. This one had a great plot but felt a tad melodramatic but I think only because a story with this much depth needed to be full-length. I'd like to see it as a full novel.
An Ocean of their Own (by Birdie Hall): Lola, an artist, draws a girl while on the beach which sets off a romance between them. Lola struggles with her feelings but more about how others will react to her homosexuality. Not only is this a great love story, but a coming out tale that avoids the common cliched melodrama. It really is an internal struggle and how one needs to accept herself to truly be in love. I liked this story and wished there were more diverse tales like this one in Summer Crush.
Overall, Summer crush was adorable with a nice mix of different tales. It could use a little more diversity as there was only one LGBTQ tale which seemed an afterthought being at the end all alone, but one could argue the single mom story is a bit diverse in comparison of the other stories. I think the publishers realized this which might be why Kissed has eight stories, three involving LGBTQ characters. Either way, both anthologies have some great YA stories and can lead you to some new great authors, most of which have other full-length works as well.
Tales in Publishing:
Trial and Error of
Part of getting traditionally published means your publishing company markets for you, but if you think that gets you out of doing it yourself as well, you'll soon learn you're sadly mistaken. Unfortunately, marketing is part of being an author (unless you only write for yourself and don't want to sell many copies). If you are like me, published by a small press, you will need to do even more marketing to get sales as these presses do not have as many resources as the Big 5 conglomerates. After talking to many authors, I've learned that with the big 5 or small press, you are expected to and even sign contracts for your minimal marketing requirements. This means, if you don't try at all, you could get dropped. Sounds daunting, but usually it is simple like a social media account and website. I'm not trying to deter anyone from publishing traditionally, but stating the norm. Note, this is something you have to do as well if self-published but it will be all by yourself or you might need to pay a professional.
My publishers made ads, but I wanted to make my own as well. I felt like it would double the advertising effort. For my first novel, Apidae, I downloaded and altered a professional's book trailer he was offering free. It was through PowerPoint, so I learned quickly, I had to upload it elsewhere to add music (it's possible but difficult). It was a painful learning process and I should've known myself better. I never do well adjusting other's work or ideas to fit my own; I'm a do-it-from-scratch kind of person.
With my second book, Fyr, I decided to plan marketing early. You see, using ads from photos on the internet can be troublesome due to breaching copyright laws. There are a few websites where photographers donate their pictures to a database to be used for free, but they are a little limited. Notice how some indie books have similar covers? Plus my search yielded nothing useful for me as they had for my first book. One theme in Fyr is stone magic. I have an college friend who works with them, so made inquiries. She was willing to take some special photos of her stones for me in exchange for a free autographed copy of my novel. When I got the photos, I added excerpts in good ole reliable PowerPoint, which allows you to customize slide sizes. I made banners and social media ads without the need of cropping.
This all took a while because I'm a perfectionist and I kept toying with different effects for the wording. I also made a book trailer in PowerPoint but broke down and bought Windows Movie Maker to add music and better compatibility and sharing options. Next time, I plan on using Movie maker from the start to see if I prefer it over the multi-step process I went through.
So here's what I did for my ads and trailer:
- Downloaded friend's photos on phone
- Enhanced them using Instagram
- Moved them to Google Drive app (to transfer to computer)
- Went on computer and added words, transitions, and timing in PowerPoint
- Saved as an MP4 file (for trailer) or JPEG (for ads)
For the ads, that's all. Due to having everything synced on Drive, I can post them from my phone and computer.
The trailer had a few extra steps:
- Uploaded trailer into Windows Movie Maker
- Dowloaded copyright free music from YouTube's library and uploaded into Movie Maker
- Save and export where you'd like it--to phone, YouTube, etc.
Having it on YouTube is great as I have easy access to it wherever. In fact, when I went to upload it onto my blog just now, there's an option for my video from the site.
Sounds kind of simple, but honestly it took a while due to me trying to perfect things and my timings being off--when that happens, I had to go back to the editable form--PowerPoint. It's not as perfect as I wanted it to be, but I'm getting better.
If you are interesting in purchasing this novel, click here.
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